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Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:

Pope Francis has officially approved allowing priests to bless same-sex couples. A new document, released today, explains the radical change in Vatican policy, saying that people seeking God’s love and mercy shouldn’t be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” to receive it.

The document elaborates on a letter Francis sent to two conservative cardinals that was published in October. In that preliminary response, Francis suggested such blessings could be offered under some circumstances if they didn’t confuse the ritual with the sacrament of marriage. “Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God,” the document said. “The request for a blessing, thus, expresses and nurtures openness to the transcendence, mercy, and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live.”

This marks the latest gesture of outreach from a pope who has made welcoming LGBTQ Catholics a hallmark of his papacy. The Vatican says that marriage is a union between man and woman. As a result, it has long opposed same-sex marriage. Some LGBTQ advocates warned that the latest move underscored the church’s idea that gay couples remain inferior to heterosexual partnerships.

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U.S. envoys work for new hostage release deal and a scale-down of Israel-Hamas war but say no timetable

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Family members prepare traditional unleavened bread in their destroyed house in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday.MOHAMMED ABED/Getty Images

The head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency went to Europe for talks with Israeli and Qatari officials today, sounding out the potential for a deal on a new ceasefire and the release of hostages in Gaza, as the U.S. Defence Secretary spoke to Israeli military leaders about scaling back major combat operations against Hamas. Pressure is growing as some of Israel’s closest allies joined global calls for a ceasefire over the weekend.

U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed concern about the large number of civilian deaths in Gaza. The United States has vetoed calls for a ceasefire at the United Nations. The 10-week-old war has so far killed an estimated 19,000 Palestinians and transformed much of the north of the territory into a moonscape. Some 1.9 million Palestinians – nearly 85 per cent of Gaza’s population – have fled their homes.

Meanwhile, attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi rebels have scared off some of the world’s biggest shipping and oil companies. The attacks have effectively rerouted global trade away from a crucial artery, which is expected to cause delays and higher prices. The Houthis have targeted Israeli-linked vessels during the Israel-Hamas war but they recently escalated their attacks, hitting or just missing ships without clear ties.


Public health update: Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam noted that a number of viruses, including influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and SARs-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, are circulating, “posing significant challenges to hospitals” in some areas. Read this week’s update on flu, COVID and RSV in Canada.

Analysis out of Hong Kong: More than three years after he was arrested on national security charges, Hong Kong publisher and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai went on trial today. The marathon hearing is expected to last well into 2024. The Globe and Mail’s Asia correspondent James Griffiths reports.

  • Related: Beverley McLachlin’s strange lack of judgment on Hong Kong

Political interference in Alberta: A senior Alberta Health Services executive says he resigned over political interference from Premier Danielle Smith’s office. In his resignation letter, which he provided to The Globe over the weekend, he accused the Premier of quashing his organization’s plan to hire former chief medical officer of health Deena Hinshaw to a position tied to Indigenous care.

Steel of a deal: Japan’s Nippon Steel closed a deal today to buy U.S. Steel for US$14.9-billion in cash, prevailing in an auction for the 122-year-old iconic steel maker. The deal will help Nippon, the world’s fourth-largest steel maker, move toward 100 million tonnes of global crude steel capacity.

Flying for business: Almost half of 217 global firms cut their business travel carbon emissions by at least 50 per cent between 2019 and 2022, according to an analysis published today. People have been using video conferencing or rail trips instead. Environmentalists are calling it an important step in minimizing overall emissions.

Portfolio advice for 2024: Nine Canadian fund managers offer their top picks and portfolio advice for the coming new year, as victory signs emerge in the fight against inflation.

Critic’s pick: Barry Hertz calls The Zone of Interest the best, most important film of 2024, a feature-length meditation on Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil.” It opens in select theatres Dec. 22.

A beloved pastry returns: Tim Hortons is finally bringing back the dutchie, a sweet, square treat speckled with raisins that was taken off the menu in the early 2000s. Come Jan. 10, the dutchie will make a limited comeback.


U.S. stocks gained ground today as market participants parsed mounting expectations of interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve in the coming year and looked ahead to a week of crucial economic data.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 93.56 points at 20,622.71. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.86 points at 37,306.02. The S&P 500 index was up 21.37 points at 4,740.56, while the Nasdaq composite was up 90.89 points at 14,904.81.

The Canadian dollar traded for 74.70 cents US.

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Bring on the standardized housing catalogue – we desperately need it

“To be sure, there are a million ways this could go wrong – including the tendency of this federal government’s attention to drift. A collection of the most exquisite plans won’t solve the much larger issue of explosive population growth contributing mightily to the housing crunch – a situation the Liberals seem to have not yet fully grasped.” – Kelly Cryderman

Housing in Nunavut is essential to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty

“Many communities in Nunavut, like my hometown of Grise Fiord at the southern tip of Ellesmere Island, were created by the forced relocation of Inuit; our families were used as human flagpoles and our communities became placeholders to secure Canada’s interests in the Arctic.” – P.J. Akeeagok

Tiff Macklem isn’t ready to bring the same holiday cheer that Jay Powell is

“As central bankers on both sides of the 49th parallel brought their monetary policies home for the holidays last week, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem faced the kind of lamenting question that disappointed parents reserve for wayward offspring at this time of year: Why can’t you be more like your cousin, Jay?” – David Parkinson


Food isn’t getting any cheaper in 2024. Here are some ways to eat healthy on a budget

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Embrace frozen vegetables, find less expensive alternatives to meat and prepare more meals at home.carlosgaw/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

In the face of rising prices at grocery stores, people are reducing the quality and quantity of food they buy, visiting different stores to find deals and switching to less expensive alternatives. Next year, food won’t be getting any cheaper. Here are some ways to keep your food budget on track while also eating healthy.


Woody the talking Christmas tree delights and terrifies visitors at a Nova Scotia mall

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David, left, and Skylar Anderson pose for a selfie in front of Woody the Talking Christmas Tree at the Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth, N.S. on Friday, December 1, 2023.Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail

Every day in December, groups of terrified children and snickering shoppers stand by to watch his animatronic, Kardashian-lashed eyes flip open at noon. Woody, the legendary-yet-often-ridiculed talking Christmas tree, was introduced in the early 1980s and revamped in the 2000s. He looks like if Thomas the Tank Engine drove into a Christmas tree. Since his comeback during the pandemic, Haligonians have embraced him wholeheartedly.

  • Cast your vote: Which Christmas movie is best? Only four flicks remain in The Globe’s holiday movie bracket
  • First Person: When playing Santa, I have one fleeting moment to convey the right message to children

Evening Update is written by Maryam Shah. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.

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