News/International

{mosimage}OTTAWA - U.S. President Barack Obama’s first visit to Canada struck some positive notes on the environment and on trade, say Catholic observers.

But Campaign Life Coalition focused on the one issue that was not on the agenda of the Feb. 20 working visit: abortion.

Pope's Holy Land trip takes shape

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{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI's planned trip to the Holy Land was slowly taking shape in February, and the tentative schedule included a number of important pastoral and interreligious events.

The proposed itinerary would take the Pope to Jordan May 8-11 for a visit to the new King Hussein Mosque in Amman, meetings with Jordanian officials, a Mass for Catholics in a soccer stadium, a stop at Jesus' Baptism site at the Jordan River and a pilgrimage to Mount Nebo, where Moses once looked out at the Promised Land.

Argentina gives Williamson 10 days to leave country

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{mosimage}BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - The government of Argentina announced Feb. 19 that traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson had 10 days to leave the country or be expelled, news media reported.

The Interior Ministry said British-born Williamson "has concealed the true motive for his stay in the country" because he said he was an employee of a nongovernmental group when he was serving as rector of the seminary of the Society of St. Pius X in La Reja for the past five years.

Williamson, who recently provoked widespread indignation by asserting that the Holocaust was exaggerated and that no Jews died in Nazi gas chambers, was removed as head of the seminary in early February.

U.S. hospitals won't comply with unjust laws

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{mosimage}ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The U.S. Catholic Health Association ’s board of trustees recently reaffirmed its opposition to any attempts by Congress or President Barack Obama to broaden abortion access and its commitment to keep Catholic hospitals open, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg said in a Feb. 6 blog entry.

“Idle threats about the certain closing of Catholic hospitals if certain things happen are simply that — idle,” said the bishop and CHA board member, writing about the board’s Feb. 4-6 retreat in the St. Petersburg area.

Crash victim heading to Jesuit school's scholarship event

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{mosimage}WASHINGTON - Beverly Eckert, a victim of the Feb. 12 plane crash near Buffalo, N.Y., was en route to present a scholarship award in honour of her late husband at Jesuit-run Canisius High School in Buffalo.

Eckert, a Sept. 11 widow, also had planned to take part in a weekend celebration in Buffalo of what would have been her husband's 58th birthday.

Her husband, Sean Rooney, died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001. That day he spoke to his wife by cell phone up until the second tower — where he was trapped — collapsed. A vice president for risk management services at the Aon Corp., he worked on the 98th floor.

Pope's Holy Land visit back on

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{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Meeting American Jewish leaders who were on their way to Israel, Pope Benedict XVI announced Feb. 12 that he, too, was preparing to visit the Holy Land.

A papal trip to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories had appeared to be set for May 8-15 until plans seemed shaken by the late-December escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip and along the Israeli border with Gaza.

Churches hope to sponsor Guantanamo detainees

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{mosimage}TORONTO - Churches are lining up to help inmates of the American military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, come to Canada.

Catholic, Anglican and United churches have all submitted sponsorship applications to bring Guantanamo prisoners to Canada as refugees. The Canadian Council for Refugees has been organizing the sponsorships and has called on the federal government to expedite the applications.

Better ways needed to protect life

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{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - The Feb. 9 death of Eluana Englaro after nutrition and hydration were withheld should lead Italian citizens and their government to find more effective ways to protect and promote human life, said the Vatican spokesman.

“In the name of Eluana we must continue to seek more effective ways to serve life,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.

New tactic used against death penalty

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{mosimage}WASHINGTON - A U.S. national organization founded by Sr. Helen Prejean and headed by a Jesuit priest is trying a new tactic to end use of the death penalty, state by state.

The Moratorium Campaign , based at the Martin Luther King Jr. Catholic Student Centre at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., hopes to convince physician licensing boards or medical societies in each state to declare it unethical for doctors to participate in executions, thus making it impossible for states to carry out their own protocols for capital punishment.

Williamson told to publicly disavow Holocaust views

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{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - The Vatican said a traditionalist bishop who has minimized the full extent of the Holocaust must disavow his positions before he will be accepted into full communion with the church.

A Vatican statement Feb. 4 said Pope Benedict XVI did not know about the controversial statements by British-born Bishop Richard Williamson when he lifted the excommunication of him and three other traditionalist bishops ordained illicitly in 1988.

Lenten fast brings together love for God, neighbour

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lent.jpgVATICAN CITY - Fasting from food and detaching oneself from material goods during Lent helps believers open their hearts to God and open their hands to the poor, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The Lenten fast helps Christians “mortify our egoism and open our hearts to love of God and neighbour,” said the Pope in his message for Lent 2009.

The papal message for Lent, which begins Feb. 25 for Latin-rite Catholics, was released Feb. 3 at the Vatican.