Pope ushers in Easter Mass

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI carried a tall, lit candle symbolizing Christian hope into a dramatically darkened St. Peter's Basilica packed with faithful Saturday night in the traditional start of the Vatican's vigil Mass on the eve of Easter.

A chant of 'Lumen Christi' (Latin for light of Christ) echoed in the cavernous basilica.

Then the vast space began twinkling with light as cardinals and other prelates lit their candles from the flame on the pope's Easter candle and, one by one, members of the congregation lit their neighbor's candle in a quick succession of lights.

US ship reaches Kenyan port

MOMBASA, Kenya - Cheering and guarded by Navy Seals, the crew of an American ship reached a Kenyan port Saturday evening without their captain, still held hostage by Somali pirates in a lifeboat hundreds of miles from shore.

Capt. Richard Phillips, 53, of Underhill, Vermont, was seized Wednesday when he thwarted the takeover of the 17,000-ton U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama, which was carrying food aid for hungry people in Somalia, Rwanda and Uganda.

A U.S. military official said that early Saturday the pirates in the lifeboat fired a few shots at a small Navy vessel that had approached, possibly to conduct reconnaissance. No one was hurt, the official said.

Diplomats: UN condemns missile launch

UNITED NATIONS - Key Security Council nations reached agreement Saturday on a statement that would condemn North Korea's rocket launch and toughen sanctions against the reclusive communist nation, council diplomats said.

The five permanent veto-wielding members - the U.S., China, Russia, Britain and France - and Japan met after Japan backed down from a demand that the Security Council adopt a new resolution, the strongest response from the U.N.'s most powerful body.

The draft statement condemns North Korea's April 5 rocket launch and makes clear that it was a violation of a Security Council resolution.

Cleric defends marriage law

KABUL - A key backer of an Afghan law that critics say legalizes marital rape and rolls back women's rights rejected an international outcry as foreign meddling on Saturday and insisted the law offers women many protections.

The law says a husband can demand sex with his wife every four days unless she is ill or would be harmed by intercourse.