Pope Francis picks
group to advise him

Pope Francis marked his first month as pontiff Saturday by naming eight cardinals from across the world to a permanent advisory group to counsel him on running the Catholic Church and reforming the Vatican bureaucracy, an announcement that indicates he intends a shift in how the papacy should function.

The panel includes only one current Vatican official; the rest are cardinals from North, Central and South America; Africa; Asia; Europe; and Australia — a sign that Francis wants to reflect the church’s universal nature as he governs. Sean Patrick O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, is a member of the panel.

In the run-up to the conclave that elected Francis the first Latin American pope last month, cardinals demanded the Vatican be more responsive to them and said the bureaucracy must be overhauled. The Vatican said Francis got the idea of an advisory body from those meetings.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi stressed that the new body is a consultative, not a decision-making, one and will not supersede the Vatican bureaucracy.

— Associated Press

H7N9 bird flu case reported in Beijing

A 7-year-old girl has become Beijing’s first confirmed case of a new strain of the bird flu virus that has killed 11 people and sickened 37 others in eastern China, officials said Saturday.

The girl, whose parents are in the live poultry trade, was hospitalized Thursday and is in stable condition, the Beijing Health Bureau said.

The case is the first reported outside eastern China, where the virus emerged in late March, prompting the slaughter of live fowl and bans on the poultry trade in several cities, including the financial hub of Shanghai.

Shanghai authorities said Saturday that a 56-year-old man, the husband of a woman hospitalized with the virus earlier this month, had become the city’s latest case but that it was inconclusive as to whether he had been infected by his wife.

Health officials believe people are contracting the H7N9 virus through contact with infected fowl and say there is no evidence the virus spreads among people.

Also Saturday, neighboring Jiangsu province confirmed two more cases — a 77-year-old woman and a 72-year-old man, both in critical condition.

— Associated Press

12 army officers to be charged with rapes in Congo: A dozen senior officers in the Congolese army have been arrested for the responsibility for mass rapes committed by several army units in eastern Congo in November 2012, Congolese Justice Minister Wivine Mumba said Saturday. The arrests come more than two weeks after the United Nations pressed Congo to take action in the case, saying that otherwise the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country would suspend its collaboration with the army units suspected of the crimes.

Central African rebel head elected president: The leader of the rebels who overthrew Central African Republic President Francois Bozize three weeks ago was unanimously elected president by the country’s National Transitional Council. Michel Djotodia, who was the only candidate, has 18 months to set up elections to select a new leader, according to guidelines set by neighboring countries in the Economic Community of Central African States.

Jet lands in sea off Bali, injuring dozens: All 108 passengers and crew members survived after a Lion Air jet crashed into the ocean Saturday and broke in two while attempting to land on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, injuring up to 45 people. Officials initially said the plane had overshot the runway, but a spokesman for Lion Air, a low-cost carrier, said that it crashed about 164 feet ahead of the runway. Lion Air is banned from flying to Europe because of broader safety lapses in the Indonesian airline industry. Last year, a Sukhoi Superjet 100 slammed into a volcano during a demonstration flight, killing all 45 people on board.

8 die in bus blast in Pakistan’s northwest: A bomb planted on a bus killed at least eight passengers and wounded seven others in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, police said. The explosion happened when the bus was passing through a crowded bazaar on its way from Peshawar to a nearby town.

Quake strikes western Japan: At least 22 people were hurt when a magnitude-6.3 earthquake struck western Japan early Saturday, the Meteorological Agency said. The epicenter was registered just south of Kobe, where a magnitude-7.2 quake killed more than 6,400 people in 1995.

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— From news services