Pope Francis asks priests to weep over their sins

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Friday, 29th March 2024

Pope Francis urged Catholic priests on Thursday to avoid “clerical hypocrisy” and treat their flocks with mercy as he delivered them a lengthy set of marching orders at the start of a busy few days leading to Easter. A stern-looking Francis warned priests against “sliding into clerical hypocrisy” or preaching one thing to their flocks but doing differently in their own spiritual lives. Rather, he urged them to always show mercy to the faithful and not judge them, and weep instead for their own sins. Doing so, he said, “means looking within and repenting of our ingratitude and inconstancy, and acknowledging with sorrow our duplicity, dishonesty, and hypocrisy,” he said.

The Pope was presiding over a Holy Thursday Mass in St Peter’s Basilica during which the oils for church services are blessed. Later in the afternoon, Pope Francis, from his wheelchair, washed the feet of 12 women at a prison in Rome during a ceremony emphasising humility and service – the first time the pope has washed the feet of women on Maundy Thursday. The Pope, 87, appeared in good form for the morning Mass. He read aloud a long homily, after skipping his text at the last minute during Palm Sunday Mass last weekend. The Mass was the first major papal liturgy in St Peter’s since Bernini’s great columned canopy over the altar, known as the ‘baldacchino’, was covered in scaffolding for a months-long renovation and cleaning. Francis has a busy few days coming up that will test his stamina. Today, Good Friday, he is due to travel at night to the Colosseum for the Way of the Cross procession re-enacting Christ’s crucifixion. On Saturday, he presides over an evening Easter Vigil in St Peter’s Basilica followed a few hours later by Easter Sunday Mass in the piazza and his big noontime ‘Urbi et Orbi’ (to the city and the world) speech highlighting global conflicts and disasters afflicting humanity.

Friars and faithful gather in the Cenacle to mark the Last Supper

On Holy Thursday, the doors of the Cenacle in Jerusalem were opened to welcome the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land. In this “Upper Room”, called the Cenacle in the Holy Land, Jesus had his Last Supper, washed his apostles’ feet, and instituted the Holy Eucharist. It was here that the Franciscans celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, re-enacting those same gestures. Holy Thursday is the only day, along with Pentecost Sunday, when the Franciscans have the right to gather in the Upper Room to pray. Usually, it is a liturgy of the word, but since 2021 they have celebrated Mass. Outside, Israeli Army personnel ensured security. The Cenacle is at the centre of strong tensions and disputes regarding ownership and rights of access and celebration. An ancient tradition places King David’s tomb there, and over the centuries, Jews and Muslims have leveraged this place to first expel the Franciscans and then to prevent Christian worship, which they deem sacrilegious.

World Court orders Israel to open land crossings to Gaza

The top United Nations court on Thursday ordered Israel to take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including opening more land crossings to allow food, water, fuel and other supplies into the war-ravaged enclave. The International Court of Justice issued two new so-called provisional measures in a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of acts of genocide in its military campaign launched after the October 7 attacks by Hamas. Israel denies it is committing genocide, saying its military campaign is self defence and aimed at Hamas, not the Palestinian people. Thursday’s order came after South Africa sought more provisional measures, including a ceasefire, citing starvation in Gaza. Israel urged the court not to issue new orders.

In its legally-binding order, the court told Israel to take measures “without delay” to ensure “the unhindered provision” of basic services and humanitarian assistance, including food, water, fuel and medical supplies. It also ordered Israel to immediately ensure that its military does not take action that could harm Palestinians’ rights under the Genocide Convention, including by preventing the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The court told Israel to report back in a month on its implementation of the orders.

Israel declared war in response to a bloody cross-border attack by Hamas on October 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 250 others were taken hostage. Israel responded with a campaign of airstrikes and a ground offensive that have left over 32,000 Palestinians dead,. The fighting also displaced over 80 per cent of Gaza’s population and caused widespread damage. The UN and international aid agencies say virtually the entire Gaza population is struggling to get enough food, with hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine, especially in hard-hit northern Gaza. An international team of doctors that recently visited a hospital in central Gaza described gut-wrenching scenes of children dead or injured.

12 killed in Israeli raid near Khan Yunis

Palestinian news agency Wafa says at least 12 people died in an Israeli air strike that hit a house near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip last night. Victims were also reported in Jabalia, in the north of the Palestinian enclave. The toll in the Gaza Strip since October 7 is at least 32,552 dead and at least 74,980 injured, according to the local Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

At least 36 dead in Israeli raid on Aleppo

The Syrian Defence Ministry says several civilians and soldiers have been killed following attacks by the Israeli army and a militant group in the northern city of Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights speaks of at least 36 deaths among Damascus soldiers. Israeli airstrikes against several areas in the countryside surrounding Aleppo occurred “in conjunction” with a drone attack on civilians that the ministry described as being conducted by “terrorist organisations” in the city of Idlib, several Arab media reported. The Syrian government has not yet provided figures on the number of victims. A military source told the official Sana news agency that “at around 1.45am the Israeli enemy launched an air strike from the direction of Athriya, southeast of Aleppo”, adding that “civilians and military personnel” were killed and injured in the attack.

Greek government survives no-confidence vote

Greece’s conservative government survived a vote of no-confidence on Thursday triggered by the opposition over its handling of a deadly train crash. Four opposition parties had accused the government of attempting to cover up potential political liabilities over a February 28 train crash in Tempi that killed 57 people, most of them students. The accident was the deadliest of its kind in the country’s history. The opposition had put forward the vote after a report in the To Vima newspaper alleged an audio file, which was leaked to the media in the hours following the head-on collision between the two trains, had been doctored to make it appear the accident was caused by human error rather than by Greece’s aging rail network. Some 159 MPs from the ruling New Democracy Party rejected the no-confidence motion in the 300-seat parliament. Earlier in the day, two top Mitsotakis aides – Minister of State Stavros Papastavrou and Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister Yiannis Bratakos – resigned after allegedly spending a night at the house of media mogul and shipowner Evangelos Marinakis, who also owns To Vima. The gathering took place a day after the paper published its damning story.

Volunteers to monitor local elections across Turkey

When local elections across Turkey were days away, legal experts were coaching thousands of volunteer election monitors on the rules they’ll need to watch for fraud and ensure a fair vote. The vote across Turkey’s 81 provinces today will determine who controls localities from major municipalities to tiny districts and villages. With high-stakes mayoral races in Istanbul and other major cities expected to be tight, observers fear that some parties may attempt to tamper with the results, and that losers could sow doubt in the outcome with allegations of fraud. The most closely watched race is in Istanbul, a city of 16 million, where opposition candidate Ekren Imamoglu is tied in a neck-and-neck battle with the AKP’s Murat Kurum. As leader of a city that accounts for almost a fifth of the country’s population, Imamoglu is seen as a likely presidential challenger. Holding on to the key cities is important for Imamoglu’s pro-secular, centre-left Republican People’s Party, or CHP. A six-party opposition alliance it once led disintegrated after losing a presidential challenge to Erdogan in last year’s elections.

Russia vetoes North Korea sanctions monitoring

A veto on Thursday by Russia ended monitoring of UN sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear programme, prompting Western accusations that Moscow was seeking to avoid scrutiny as it allegedly violates the sanctions to buy weapons from Pyongyang for its war in Ukraine. The Associated Press opines Russia’s turnaround on the UN monitoring reflects how Moscow’s growing animosity with the US and its Western allies since the start of the Ukraine war has made it difficult to reach consensus on even issues where there has been longstanding agreement. The veto came during a vote on a UN Security Council resolution that would have extended the mandate of a panel of experts monitoring sanctions on North Korea for a year, but which will now halt its operation when its current mandate expires at the end of April. The vote in the 15-member council, with 13 in favour, Russia against, and China abstaining, has no impact on the actual sanctions against North Korea, which remain in force.

Kyiv says 26 Russian drones downed

Russia on Thursday attacked eastern, southern and southeastern parts of Ukraine with 28 Iranian-made drones, of which the Ukrainian forces downed 26. Russia launched the drones over Odesa, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regions overnight, the air force said. The Russian attacks also included missile strikes. The governor of the Zaporizhzhia region said two women were wounded when debris struck a residential neighborhood in the capital of the region. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba arrived in New Delhi for a two-day visit meant to boost bilateral ties and cooperation with India.

Meanwhile, Tass news agency quotes Moscow saying 15 Ukrainian air targets were shot down overnight over the Russian city of Belgorod. No victims were reported. Belgorod governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on Telegram, “Our air defences went into action in the city and district of Belgorod, shooting down 15 approaching air targets. According to preliminary information, there were no casualties.” Gladkov added that the windows of 37 apartments of 17 apartment blocks were destroyed and a balcony was severely damaged by falling fragments. Damage also occurred in the Belgorod stadium.

Biden to host star-studded fundraiser to raise $25m

US President Joe Biden’s presidential election campaign is set to raise $25million (€27.6m) in a star-studded event that will be attended by more than three decades of Democratic leadership. Former Democratic presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton will be standing alongside President Biden at the Radio City Music Hall in New York in a rare joint appearance aimed at securing the 81-year-old president a second term in the White House. Biden and his Vice-President Kamila Harris have already fundraised more than his Republican opponent in November’s election, former president Donald Trump, 77. The hours-long event is expected to attract thousands of people and has different tiers of access depending on how much is donated. The cheapest ticket costs $225 (€210). The main event will be an onstage conversation with the three presidents, moderated by late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert. More money will allow donors to have more intimate time with the presidents. A photograph with all three is $100,000 (€92,700). A donation of $250,000 earns donors access to one reception, and $500,000 gets them into an even more exclusive gathering.

World wastes 19% of its food – UN

The world wasted an estimated 19 per cent  of the food produced globally in 2022, or about 1.05 billion metric tons, according to a new United Nations report. The UN Environment Programme’s Food Waste Index Report tracks the progress of countries to halve food waste by 2030. The UN said the number of countries reporting for the index nearly doubled from the first report in 2021, which had estimated that 17 per cent  of the food produced globally in 2019, or 931 million metric tons, was wasted.

The report, co-authored by UNEP and Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), an international charity, analysed country data on households, food service and retailers. Researchers found that each person wastes about 79 kilograms of food annually, equal to at least one billion meals wasted worldwide daily. Most of the waste – 60 per cent – came from households. About 28 per cent  came from food service, or restaurants, with about 12 per cent  from retailers. The report comes at a time when 783 million people around the world face chronic hunger and many places facing deepening food crises. The Israel-Hamas war and violence in Haiti have worsened the crisis, with experts saying that famine is imminent in northern Gaza and approaching in Haiti.

45 killed after bus plunges down ravine in South Africa

South Africa’s Department of Transport said a bus crash near Mamatlakala in the northern province of Limpopo resulted in at least 45 deaths and one seriously injured person, an eight-year-old girl, who has been airlifted to hospital. Reuters quotes the ministry saying the driver lost control and collided with barriers on the bridge, causing the bus to plunge down some 50 metres and hit the ground where it caught fire. Some bodies were burned beyond recognition while others were trapped inside the debris and scattered on the scene, Limpopo’s Department of Transport said in a separate statement.

“We will stone adulteresses in public

The Taliban have announced that they will begin stoning to death in public women accused of adultery. Addressing Western officials in a voice message broadcast on state TV, the supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, announced that the group would begin enforcing its interpretation of Sharia law in Afghanistan, including reintroducing public flogging and stoning of women for adultery.

EU sees “troubling surge” in sexually transmitted diseases

The European Union has reported a “troubling” surge in sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) across Europe, which could be just “the tip of the iceberg”. In 2022, gonorrhoea cases rose by 48 per cent, with 70,881 reported around the EU and EEA area, compared to a year earlier. Cases of syphilis rose by 34 per cent to over 35,391, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Cases of chlamydia rose 16 per cent, reaching 216,508 across the 27 countries covered by the agency. “This surge is staggering, as it is troubling,” ECDC director Andrea Ammon told a news conference. “These numbers, as big as they are, most likely only represent the tip of the iceberg because surveillance data may underestimate the true burden.” Ammon explained the majority of cases reported were among “men who have sex with men but the agency also saw increases among women and heterosexual sexual men.

French National Assembly votes to outlaw hair discrimination

France’s National Assembly (lower house of parliament) approved a Bill on Thursday that aims to ban any discrimination based on hair and hairstyle. The law, which will particularly impact Black women with natural hair, now needs to pass the French Senate. Similar laws exist in parts of the US, where hair discrimination is treated as a type of racism.

Photo: Vatican Media

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