Pastor calls for bravery against coronavirus from atop Swiss cathedral tower

By John Revill and Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) – A pastor called on the residents of Zurich to be brave during the coronavirus outbreak on Sunday – as he gave an Easter blessing from high atop one of the towers at the city’s landmark Grossmuenster cathedral.

Christoph Sigrist read out a blessing from the city’s 800-year-old church, known as one of the birthplaces of the Protestant Reformation.

Sigrist asked God to protect people of all religions in his blessing which he read from the top of the 60-meter high tower, using only a traditional wooden cone as a loudhailer, rather than an electric microphone.

Four trumpeters played from the balcony before and after the blessing.

“In times of crisis long ago, priests in Switzerland used to go out into mountains and sing out God’s blessings to the people,” Sigrist told Reuters.

“This is a very old tradition which I am bringing to the city,” added the 57-year-old, who was accompanied on Sunday by horn players. “It’s a blessing for the whole world in this difficult time with the coronavirus.”

Below, a few people taking a break from their self-isolation broke into a round of applause after the blessing, as the trumpeters started playing the gospel song “Oh Happy Day.”

(Reporting by John Revill)

Three people hurt in shooting near Zurich Islamic center

Police stand outside an Islamic center in central Zurich, Switzerland

By Michael Shields and Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) – Three people were hurt in a shooting near an Islamic center in central Zurich on Monday, police said.

Swiss media said a suspect was on the run after the incident near the main train station in Switzerland’s financial capital.

Zurich police confirmed people had been hurt in an incident on Zurich’s Eisgasse, but gave no more details.

Police had sealed off the area. Some police were standing near the entrance of the building, where an Islamic center and several businesses are registered.

It was not immediately clear whether the Islamic center or any of the other businesses were the target of the attack.

Across Switzerland, two thirds of 8.3 million residents identify as Christians. But the nation has been wrestling with the role of Islam as its Muslim population has risen to 5 percent with the arrival of immigrants from former Yugoslavia.

In 2009, a nationwide vote backed a constitutional ban on new minarets.

Three police vehicles and one ambulance were at the scene shortly before 7 p.m. (1750 GMT), while one ambulance had just driven away, a Reuters witness said. Roughly 20 police officers were present.

(Writing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Alison Williams)