The Latest: 50 boys take epiphany plunge in Florida


The Latest: 50 boys take epiphany plunge in Florida

The Associated Press
Nicolaos Solis from Greece kisses the wooden cross which was thrown into the waters by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, during the Epiphany ceremony to bless the waters at the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The Latest on the Epiphany observances Christians in many parts of the world are holding: (all times local):

11:20 p.m.

Unusually cold temperatures in Florida from a monster winter storm didn't dissuade more than 50 boys from making their annual plunge in a bayou as part of the largest epiphany celebration in the United States.

Some 57 boys wearing only t-shirts and shorts dove into the chilly waters Saturday in Tarpon Springs, Florida, to retrieve a cross. Snow prevented the attendance of an archbishop from New York.

The tradition is to honor the baptism of Jesus.

A member of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral's epiphany dive committee, Emmanuel Gombos, says paramedics were nearby. Tens of thousands of spectators shouted "wow" as the group made the plunge in 50-degree Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) weather.

Moments later, one popped up and kissed the white cross. He was greeted by a warm towel.


7:45 p.m.

In Mexico City, aid workers brought toys and other gifts to brighten the Epiphany holiday for children living in dozens of makeshift tent camps more than three months after a deadly earthquake.

The date — Jan. 6 — is commonly known as "Day of the Magi" in Latin America, and it's when children traditionally unwrap holiday gifts rather than on Christmas Day.

Uriel Martinez is an 8-year-old whose family lost their home in the Sept. 19 quake. They've been staying in a small camp in southern Mexico City, a motley assortment of tents pitched on boards with tarps strung overhead to keep out the overnight chill.

Martinez woke up early Saturday to find a toy gun had been left for him. That made him happy because he wants to be a soldier when he grows up.

He says "I heard the kings come, but then I went back to sleep."


3:55 p.m.

The head of the Catholic Church in Warsaw has spoken out in support of migrants during an Epiphany procession in the Polish capital that was part of nationwide celebrations.

The procession Saturday in Warsaw was held under the motto "God is for everyone" and Warsaw Archbishop Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz says that means no one should be seen as an "alien."

His words seemed directed at the conservative Polish government, which has many officials who are Catholic but refuse to accept Muslim migrants from the Middle East or Africa.

Warsaw's 10th annual procession featured camels and richly-clad Three Magi. A few thousand adults and children marched in it, wearing paper crowns. President Andrzej Duda led another procession in Skoczow, in southern Poland.


1:20 p.m.

The Greek Orthodox Christian community in Istanbul has celebrated Epiphany with the traditional blessing of the waters.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians around the world and the archbishop of Constantinople, led the liturgy on Saturday at the Patriarchal Church of St. George.

The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates Jesus' baptism on Epiphany. Several blessings of the waters took place across Istanbul. The ceremony consists of a cross being tossed into the water to be retrieved by swimmers.

The patriarch threw the blessed cross into the waters of Istanbul's Golden Horn as the faithful jumped into the sea.

Nikos Solis, 29, a personal trainer from Greece, retrieved the wooden cross three years in a row.

Bartholomew presented Solis with a golden crucifix on a chain.


1:10 p.m.

Pope Francis told tens of thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square that some Christians prefer to live with indifference toward Jesus and his teachings.

Francis said during an Epiphany appearance from his studio window overlooking the square that such individuals follow worldly principles which satisfy "the inclinations toward arrogance, the thirst for power and for riches" instead of acting "in coherence with their own Christian faith."

He prayed that instead that "the world makes progress down the path of justice and of peace."

Francis noted that some Eastern Rite Catholic and Orthodox churches are celebrating Christmas this weekend. In expressing cordial wishes to these believers, Francis added, "May this glorious celebration be a source of new spiritual vigor and of communion among us Christians."

He also recalled the traditions such as in Poland, where many families join in processions recalling the three wise men. In some countries, Epiphany and not Christmas, is the holiday when loved ones exchange gifts.


11:50 a.m.

Pope Francis is advising against making the pursuit of money, a career or success the basis for one's whole life.

Francis said during a homily on Saturday to mark Epiphany that people "often make do" with having "health, a little money and a bit of entertainment."

He urged helping the poor and other needy communities instead, while giving freely without expecting anything in return.

Most Christian religions observe Epiphany to recall the three wise men who followed a star to find baby Jesus. Francis suggested asking "what star we have chosen to follow in our lives."

He said: "Some stars may be bright, but do not point the way. So it is with success, money, career, honors and pleasures when these become our lives."

That path, he says, won't ensure peace and joy.

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