A year ago Pope Francis dramatically indicated where the Vatican stands on Palestine when he stopped his motorcade and bowed his head in silent prayer at the security wall that divides the West Bank from Israel and the rest of the world. The image of a solemn Pope praying for peace made front pages around the world.

Pundits and politicians agree: Ontario’s newly minted Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown is in a quagmire.

His problem goes something like this: social conservatives got him elected as leader but pro-life, anti-sex-ed voters aren’t nearly enough to bring the new guy victory in a general election. Sooner or later, they say, Brown must abandon his base.

It was Palestinian Week in Rome. The Holy See recognized the “State of Palestine.” The Holy Father called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an “angel of peace.” Two Palestinian saints were canonized. Or so it appeared in the world’s press. Not for the first time under Pope Francis, what was reported was not exactly what happened.

One day my Warsaw friend suddenly took it into her head to fly to England and enter the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Cecilia at Ryde on the Isle of Wight. I found out after the fact and was cross that Weronika had robbed her friends of our traditional goodbye party for postulants. However, Weronika wrote a charming apology for her elopement, explaining that she had thought she would leave by Christmas and therefore didn’t want a fuss.

Barbara Turnbull, who died last week at age 50, impacted thousands through her charitable work, her writing, her advocacy for the disabled and quite simply by her indomitable spirit.

Among Omar Khadr’s first words after tasting freedom for the first time in 13 years was a vow to prove that the boy terrorist has become a law-abiding young man.

Pope Francis has declared a special jubilee to help the world encounter the awesome, awful and awe-filled mercy of God. The world prefers cheap grace, and thinks it can get it from the Holy Father. The world — represented recently by Raul Castro and Al Gore — will be disappointed.

For all the talk about global warming what we’re now seeing is a freezing trend that’s producing an ice sheet over Satan’s lake of fire. We know this is happening because events long thought possible only when the underworld’s climate turned entirely upside down — when hell froze over — have become the order of the day.

When we lose the great hymns of our past we lose an irrecoverable legacy. Alas as much as we hear “Lord of the Dance” at Mass, such happy-clappy tunes will provide little solace amidst a dark night of the soul.

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and their colleagues wanted to write fiction that would effectively “evangelize the imagination,” accustoming minds, especially of young people, to the Gospel. Accordingly, Tolkien’s Gandalf is a figure of Jesus the prophet and Lewis’ Aslan is a representation of Christ as both sacrificial victim and victorious king. Happily, the film versions of both The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia have been wildly popular all over the world.

Not so happily, Joss Whedon’s Avenger films, the second of which has just appeared, work as a sort of antidote to Tolkien and Lewis, shaping the imaginations of young people with a distinctly different message. Whedon, the auteur behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and many other well-received films and television programs, is a self-avowed atheist who has, on many occasions, signalled his particular dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church.

In the plot of Avengers: Age of Ultron the world is threatened by an artificial intelligence named Ultron who has run amok and incarnated himself in a particularly nasty robotic body. Ultron wants to destroy the human race and has produced an army of robots as his posse.

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Some time next month the Vatican will release the Pope’s much-anticipated encyclical on the environment. It will be the first time a pope has devoted an encyclical to environmental matters and already critics are questioning Pope Francis’ qualifications to address this complex scientific issue.

By Joy Smith, Catholic Register Special

On New Year’s Day, Pope Francis delivered his annual World Day of Peace message that passionately called for an end to modern-day slavery. The title, “No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters,” is taken from St. Paul’s letter to Philemon. Pope Francis noted that “slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object” and highlighted the many forms of modern-day slavery, including “persons forced into prostitution, many of whom are minors.”

According to the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, Catholic Register columnist Michael Coren was received into the Anglican Communion on April 19. Despite Coren’s fame as an apologist for the Roman Catholic faith, his break with Rome went almost unnoticed. The news was made public by a tweet congratulating Coren on his reception. This disappeared from Twitter, although not before a sharp-eyed reader took a screenshot and posted it to a blog.