My father once told me the story of a Japanese tourist who wandered into a historical European church. A guide hurried to meet him and point out the intricate carvings, the famous paintings. It took her a moment to realize that the Japanese visitor was paying no attention. He was standing frozen in the middle of the aisle with his face contorted in horror. Finally he raised a shaking finger to the baroque and bloody crucifix and asked, “Who is THAT?”

A remarkable statement signed by more than 200 prominent political and religious leaders from the Muslim world has boldly asserted that Islamic persecution of Christians and others is “unconscionable” and must end if the world is to find peace.

I was surprised recently to read that defunding Catholic schools was the leading piece of advice the Ontario Government had received so far in its budget consultations. And I couldn’t help thinking that just because you have a thought, an idea, a proposal, it doesn’t mean you have to say it out loud. And even if you feel compelled to utter it, forcing the rest of us to listen, it doesn’t mean we have to pay serious attention.

A historic treaty between the Vatican and Palestine came into effect on Jan. 2 with little fanfare. But it warrants discussion now on the heels of an Israeli land grab that underlines how far removed the Holy Land remains from peace.

After years writing about euthanasia as the religion reporter for the National Post, followed by two years of public talks to convince Canadians that government-sanctioned killing would be a disaster, I think I have finally figured out what bothers me the most about what is taking place in our country: the disturbing lack of imagination that has taken over the public psyche about how to deal with people who are suffering.

As Canada gets ready for its multi-million-dollar 150th birthday celebration in 2017, party planners would do well to remember the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Pioneers, missionaries, pastors, educators, peacemakers, nation builders — few organizations stand ahead of the Oblates, as they are commonly known, in terms of the quantity and quality of their contributions to Canada.

The strength of Catholic education is founded on an alliance between families, parishes and schools which work together towards a shared objective. Together they comprise the domestic church.

Addressing U.S. congress last September, Pope Francis bluntly dissected the multi-billion-dollar international arms industry.

During recent travels in Beirut I met Kamal and his family, Syrian-Armenian Christian refugees. They told a harrowing tale.

At a recent ordination of a bishop, Pope Francis shared his secrets for success. He advised the bishop to be a disciple of mercy and patience — and short homilies.

Newspapers typically select a “person of the year” based on noble deeds or towering accomplishments. The world certainly abounds with such people, but rather than acclaim one of these for 2015 we instead commemorate Alan Kurdi.

It was a good idea that didn’t work. Before the reform of the Roman calendar in the 1960s, the octave day of Christmas — Jan. 1 — was celebrated as the feast of the circumcision and holy name, as Jewish boys were named on the eighth day after birth. There was a minor feast of the divine maternity of Mary in the calendar on Oct. 11, which St. John XXIII chose for the opening of Vatican II, and now serves as his feast day.

In the final week of Advent, I was in an Ottawa sandwich shop having coffee with two photographer friends when a man behind us pitched himself into our conversation.