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In a perfect world, agencies dedicated to lifting people out of poverty would be well financed with both private and public funds. But the world of 2012 is far from perfect so it should be no shock that Development and Peace is reeling from a 68 per cent cut in government funding.

Governments everywhere are scrambling to reduce huge budget deficits and ballooning debts exacerbated by global economic turmoil. In Canada, amid expensive national infrastructure and bailout programs, the Conservative government changed its approach to foreign aid in 2010. Where foreign aid used to be based on a percentage of GDP, it is now capped at $5 billion annually.

Abandon Ontario's casino plans

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An indisputable fact about casinos is that they hurt people. Not all people, of course, and perhaps not even the majority of people. But as sure as a roulette wheel spins, the casino business causes personal harm to land on some gamblers.

An important duty of government is to protect its citizens. We spend billions of dollars on such safety nets as policing, social programs and health care because society accepts a collective responsibility to look out for one another and then entrusts government to implement policies to make that happen. So it stands to reason that governments should not be supporting any type of high-stakes gambling business that can harm citizens.

Insult to the cross

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In promoting new evangelization, Pope Benedict has lamented what he calls an “eclipse of the sense of God” in society.

In 2009 that eclipse was exposed in a very public way when an atheist won a much-publicized case (subsequently overturned on appeal) to have crucifixes removed from Italian classrooms. Since then, cases have abounded in which the state has sided with individuals clamouring to expunge religious symbols, holidays, prayer and even Christian conscience from public life. But recent actions by the British government elevate state-sponsored religious intolerance to a new level.

The coalition government of David Cameron has declared that citizens have no right to wear a cross around their necks at work and can be required to remove their cross if ordered by the boss. If they refuse, they can be fired.

Ethical engagement

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If it is possible for something to be shocking but not surprising then the so-called election robo-calls controversy fits the bill. Elections Canada has fielded 31,000 complaints from voters who say they were on the receiving end of telephone dirty tricks on or around federal election day last May.

The revelations are shocking because widespread deception may be expected in fledgling democracies or authoritarian states that masquerade as democracies, but surely not in a country like Canada. Then again, the allegations are not surprising because, sadly, Canadian politics have been travelling a slippery slope for many years when it comes to declining moral standards and ethical practices. Maybe we should have seen this coming.

Protect Syria’s Christians

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a despot whose shooting and shelling of his own people cannot be defended, yet he may be the last line of defence for Syria’s Catholics.

For that reason, Syrian Church leaders are taking a cautious approach to the nearly year-long rebellion to topple Assad. They have been pleading for calm, for dialogue and for Western assistance to find a peaceful solution to Syria’s popular uprising as the nation moves ever closer to all-out civil war. So far, the dispute is political, but churchmen fear the fighting may quickly turn religious.

‘We are called to live for Christ’ - Cardinal Collins

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ROME - Canada’s newest cardinal, resplendent in shimmering scarlet vestments, was still adjusting to his new look on Feb. 18 when he arrived at a reception in his honour. Barely two hours earlier he had become His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins after Pope Benedict XVI welcomed Toronto’s archbishop into the College of Cardinals on a sunny Saturday morning.

“These robes are very bright,” quipped Collins. “I’ll certainly stick out in a crowd.”

Cardinal Collins’ Irish roots come in handy for his titular parish in Rome

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ROME - For the first time in its 100-year history, St. Patrick’s Irish National Church in Rome has a Cardinal Protector who is not Irish. But in Cardinal Thomas Collins the congregation figures it has been blessed with the next best thing.

“He has Irish roots,” said Fr. Tony Finn. “So there’s still an Irish connection. We’re delighted.”

When the Pope welcomes new members into the College of Cardinals they are made a titular pastor of a church in Rome. As such, they are entitled to vote in a papal conclave in keeping with  the centuries-old tradition that the clergy of Rome elect the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Collins learned that he was awarded St. Patrick’s a few days before the consistory but was sworn to secrecy until the Pope’s announcement.

To his sisters, Cardinal Collins will remain ‘T’

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ROME - The first thing that went through the minds of Catherine and Patricia Collins when they saw their little brother in the full regalia of a cardinal was: “Wow, he really stands out now!”

They said that with love and pride shortly after Pope Benedict XVI made His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins the 16th cardinal in Canadian history. The sisters were at their brother’s side at several events during the days leading up to the Feb. 18 consistory, but nothing topped the moment when Collins joined the College of Cardinals.

A cardinal’s joy

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Cardinal Thomas Collins is a happy person by nature but there was something particularly joyful about him during his journey to Rome to become a cardinal.

Many people commented on it. He was seldom without a smile, without a quip, without infectious exuberance.

A couple days before he received his red hat, Collins was asked how he was feeling. “Imminently eminent,” he replied, with a broad smile. The next day, wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, he hammed it up for a photographer in St. Peter’s Square, resulting in a picture of pure happiness and contentment.

"Diving right into the chaos" - Jim O'Leary

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ROME - Roman traffic is chaotic. The speed limit is established by the pace of the car ahead. Stops signs mean ease up a bit on the gas. Signalling a turn is for sissies. Except at major intersections, a red light means look both ways before proceeding.

Cardinal Thomas Collins receives his red biretta [w/ video]

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Other than doing a "happy dance," Canada's newest cardinal every bit resembled a man who just won the lottery.

"It's a tremendous moment of joy," said His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins after Pope Benedict XVI accepted him into the College of Cardinals on a sunny Saturday morning.

"It's astonishing and amazing to be there at St. Peter's, at the tomb of St. Peter," Collins said.