Pope says he prepared his tomb in Santa Maria Maggiore

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Wednesday, 13th December 2023

In an exclusive interview with the Mexican broadcaster N+, Pope Francis “revealed that he has prepared his tomb in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore due to the great devotion he has towards the Virgin Salus Populi Romani (the Catholic title associated with the venerated image of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Rome) and that he was simplifying the rite of papal funerals”. Writing on X, journalist Valentina Alazraki, who conducted the interview, says the Pontiff explained that “when old age and limitations arrive, one must prepare” and “for this reason he met with the master of ceremonies to simplify the papal funerals, which will be much simpler”. “I will launch the new ritual”, Pope Francis said “with humour”. Bergoglio “said that despite the health problems he had this year he never thought of resigning”. Regarding Benedict XVI’s resignation from the pontificate, Pope Francis commented, according to Alazraki’s account, that Ratzinger “was a great and humble man, who when he realised his limitations had the courage to say ‘enough’”.

The Pontiff “confirmed he had received the invitation” to go to Argentina from President Javier Milei Commenting with the Mexican correspondent in the Vatican on the accusations and insults directed at him by the Argentine leader, Francis said that “what is said in the electoral campaign falls by itself”. The Holy See and Bergolgio have never responded to these insults.

UN demands ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ in Gaza

On Tuesday, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for the second time to demand a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. The measure, introduced by Egypt, passed with 153 in favour and only 10 opposed, including the United States, Israel, and a handful of smaller countries. Twenty-three members abstained. The tally was surprising only in that it showed an increasing number of those favouring the measure, exceeding the 120 nations that voted for a similar resolution in late October. Egypt said it was acting now to overcome the refusal of the UN Security Council, whose mandates have the force of international law, to “shoulder its responsibility” to stop the fighting. The United States blocked a ceasefire resolution in the 15-member council last week with its veto. Resolutions passed in the assembly, while not binding, reflect the views of the majority of the 193-nation UN membership.

‘Respect to UN ceasefire request’ says Hamas

Meanwhile, Hamas has welcomed the United Nations General Assembly’s call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, Arab media reported. Izzat Al-Rishq, member of the Political Bureau of the Palestinian Islamist movement, “urged the international community to continue to put pressure” on what he called the “occupation forces” and called for “respect” for the UN decision. In a short statement, Al-Rishq also condemned “the war of genocide and ethnic cleansing” against the people of the Gaza Strip.

Israel losing support’ – Biden

US President Joe Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “strengthen and change” his hardline government in some of the President’s most candid comments on the conflict to date. “This is the most conservative government in Israel’s history,” Biden told donors at a campaign event on Tuesday. He said Netanyahu’s government “doesn’t want a two-state solution” – a solution that Washington officially supports. Biden also said the international community was growing less supportive of Israel’s continued strikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which have killed thousands of Palestinian civilians. Biden alluded to a private conversation in which the Israeli leader told him: “You carpet bombed Germany, you dropped the atom bomb, a lot of civilians died.” Biden said he responded: “Yeah, that’s why all these institutions were set up after World War Two to see to it that it didn’t happen again.” The Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health made it be known that the new death toll in the Strip rose to  18,412.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Netanyahu hints at plans for post-war Gaza

The Israeli Prime Minister has said that, while the White House supports his goal of eliminating Hamas, the two nations differ about what should follow the war in Gaza. In a video statement, Netanyahu said that “Gaza will be neither ‘Hamas-stan’ nor ‘Fatah-stan’.” The US, the EU, and others consider Hamas a terror group. He said he would “not allow Israel to repeat the mistake of Oslo” – a reference to the 1993 Oslo Accords that established limited Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. Fatah is the political party that leads the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. A senior member of the Palestinian Authority condemned Netanyahu’s comments on social media: “We say to Netanyahu that Oslo died under the treads of his tanks, sweeping through our cities, villages, and camps from Jenin to Rafah,” said Hussein Al-Sheikh.

Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

COP28 goes into extra time in search for agreement

In Dubai, COP28 went into extra time, in search of a compromise agreement on a new draft that is less ‘disappointing’ than the previous one – at least according to most of the 197 countries and the European Union, that have been participating in the negotiations since 30th November. A new text is expected, and, later in the morning, there could be a plenary meeting for a possible approval by consensus. A real vote is not required, nor unanimity, however a green light is considered a commitment. An ‘ambitious’ front of around 130 states –made up of the EU and various alliances ranging from small island states to the USA and Australia – presented a ‘paper’ with ‘the changes’ to Conference president Sultan Al Jaber on three points: exit from fossil fuels (phaseout), finance, and aid measures. “We want this COP to mark the beginning of the end of fossil fuels”, said the European Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra.

Photo: Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto/Getty

‘End of reign’ after shock immigration loss for Macron

President Emmanuel Macron has been stopped dead in his tracks over the failure of a flagship immigration bill that shows how hard it will now be to run France without an absolute majority in the National Assembly. Politico reported on Monday that the National Assembly rejected his flagship immigration bill in a dramatic vote that took the government by surprise. The defeat was made more humiliating by the fact that lawmakers didn’t even debate the text, but rejected it in a preliminary vote. The upset sent shockwaves through the political establishment and raised questions about whether France had become ungovernable. Doubts about Macron’s ability to govern France have been swirling since he lost the parliamentary elections last year. While his centrist coalition remained the largest group in the National Assembly, he no longer had an absolute majority to pass legislation.


Sunak is saved on the Rwanda plan

Rishi Sunak’s government was saved Tuesday evening in the House of Commons in the (high-risk) introductory vote on the crucial legislative proposal implementing the so-called Rwanda plan for the disputed paid transfer to the African country of quotas of asylum seekers landed illegally in the Kingdom United – the text presented by the prime minister as a symbolic initiative of the promised relaunch of the hard line against immigration. The proposal passed, at least in the first instance, with 313 votes in favour and 279 votes against – a majority of 44 – but not without internal divisions within the Tory majority. It remains to be seen how the House of Lords would vote in view of the High Court ruling that the first plan was ruled as prejudicial to the asylum seekers exiled to Rwanda.

Photo: BBC

Thousands call for better wages and public services in Brussels

Thousands of protesters gathered Tuesday in the capital of the European Union, calling for better public services, salaries and living conditions. The protest in downtown Brussels took place during EU negotiations over the new Stability and Growth Pact, which aims to limit debt and deficits for member countries. Nations seeking to spend their way out of a crisis would instead implement a set of economic policies such as budget cuts and tax increases. But critics say the policy, known as austerity, won’t work. The European Trade Union Confederation, which represents 45 million members, claims the planned reinstatement of the Stability and Growth Pact will force 14 member states to cut a combined €45 billion from their budgets in the next year alone. ETUC General Secretary Esther Lynch said a return to austerity “would kill jobs, lower wages, mean even less funding for already over-stretched public services and all but guarantee another devastating recession”.

Photo: AP/Sylvain Plazy

Positive signals’ from the US Congress Zelensky,

In his meetings at the American Congress, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky had “positive signals” on new aid to his beleaguered country. He told a news conference at the White House with President Joe Biden that, however, he wanted to wait for the “results”. In the meantime, following his meeting with Zelensky in the Oval Office, President Biden announced he had signed “another aid package of $200 million in aid to Ukraine”.

Photo: Evan Vucci

34 injured as missiles hit Kiev during night raid

At least 34 people were injured during a Russian missile attack that targeted Kiev in the early hours of today. “In the Dniprovskyi district there are 34 injured: 15 people including two children were hospitalised, while 19 received medical assistance on site”, said the mayor of the Ukrainian capital Vitali Klitschko explaining that in the night attack, an apartment building and a children’s hospital were damaged.


Russia faces shortage of HIV/AIDS drugs

Patients of an HIV/AIDS prevention and control centre in Moscow have reported shortages of more than 400 drug used to treat HIV and hepatitis in Russia, according to the independent Russian news site Novaya Gazeta Europe. The news site estimated that medical facilities cut procurement of almost half of all HIV medicines available and stopped supplying 13 medicines completely. It’s thought that more than 1.13 million people in Russia live with the HIV virus, which can lead to AIDS. Only about 52 per cent of all registered patients receive free medication. In exchange, they must register their status as a person infected with HIV, which is recorded in a database. Many don’t want to be registered as they fear discrimination and social exclusion. In Russia, people suffering from HIV are widely stigmatised and liable to criminal prosecution.

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