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The Catholic Register offers its readers dependable information and opinion as a joyful servant of God's pilgrim church.

During the extraordinary days that culminated in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, Christians and Muslims set aside religious differences to march together as Egyptian citizens demanding reform.  

Thus the protests that caused Mubarak’s resignation were not so much an Islamic uprising as they were a broad popular revolt that crossed deep religious divides. There were stories from Cairo of Christians forming protective circles around Muslims during Friday prayers, and Muslims reciprocating when, remarkably, Christians prayed in public. Christians held crosses next to Muslims carrying Qurans. Some protesters waved signs that had the Christian cross mingling with the Muslim crescent in a unified symbol. When the radical Muslim Brotherhood shouted “Allah Akbar!” they were drowned out by chants of “Muslim, Christian. . .  we’re all Egyptian.”

The wrong choice

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The Monsignor Feeney Foundation of London, Ont., is one of those unsung organizations that operates in relative obscurity doing good work on behalf of the Catholic community. Its web site says the foundation has raised $4 million since 1983 for a long list of mostly educational causes.

So it’s a shame that, for most of us, our introduction to this worthy organization comes after its directors took a significant misstep and then declined to acknowledge their error, let alone offer to fix it.

At issue is contracting Stephen Lewis to headline a fund-raising event — “An evening with Stephen Lewis!” — at which Lewis, according to organizers, was to speak about poverty, children and education.

Protect our rights

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The rights of religious freedom and religious conscience are guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and in the United Nations declaration of human rights. Yet increasingly in Canada and in other Western nations these fundamental rights are being disrespected by legislators, tribunals and courts.

So bravo to Regina Archbishop Daniel Bohan for issuing a pastoral letter that challenges government to act skillfully to protect the basic human right of freedom of conscience. His comments were directed at his archdiocese and at Saskatchewan legislators, but they apply right across Canada and beyond.

Schools are tolerant

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Last November the Halton Catholic District School board passed an equity policy that explicitly banned gay-straight alliances. Following an outcry from gay activists, a new board of trustees cancelled that policy and replaced it with one that, although making no mention of gay-straight alliances, was widely interpreted as an endorsement of the controversial after-school clubs and a victory for those who would see Catholic values trumped in schools by secular morality.

If that were indeed true, it would be a sad day for Catholic education. The primary role of trustees is to be faithful guardians of the morals and values that are the bedrock of Catholic education. So what happened in Halton?

A worthy blessed

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“Santo subito!” they shouted in the days after his death — “Sainthood now!” for Pope John Paul II.

If ever existed someone worthy of exemption from the Vatican’s five-year waiting period before initiating a cause for sainthood, Pope John Paul II was it.

That seemed obvious to thousands of mourners who filled the streets after John Paul’s death in 2005. So, too, was it clear to his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, who steered John Paul onto an express lane to sainthood that will bring the quickest beatification in the history of the modern Church.

Safeguard liberty

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World religionsThe right to religious freedom is the first of human rights. With those unequivocal words, delivered to diplomats from around the world, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed a cause that has become fundamental to his papacy. Religious freedom is being battered in many parts of the world and, with few leaders speaking out, Benedict has become the staunchest voice in the denunciation of religious persecution and intolerance.

All people of religion should applaud him. 

The theme of religious liberty has appeared often recently in Benedict’s public comments, but perhaps never as forcefully as Jan. 10 during the Pope’s annual address to the Vatican diplomatic corps. The Holy See maintains diplomatic relations with 178 nations, as well as the European Union and observer status with the United Nations. Addressing the diplomatic corps at the start of each year, the Pope outlines the Vatican’s position on an important international issue, anything from peace to the environment to world trade.

A Haitian solution

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Haiti new generationHaiti’s late-afternoon earthquake last Jan. 12 devastated the impoverished nation in less than 60 seconds. Twelve months and many promises later reconstruction has barely begun.

That sad reality is a reflection of Haiti’s political fragility and the world’s inability to rapidly respond to a catastrophe that killed an estimated 230,000 people, injured 300,000 more and left more than one million homeless. As Haitians mark the first anniversary of the tragedy it remains imperative that the international community neither forget nor abandon them. 

This edition of The Catholic Register includes a nine-page section that revisits Haiti one year after the 7.0 earthquake focused world attention on the shattered nation. Associate editor Michael Swan went to Haiti to report on whether the world has lived up to promises made in the aftermath of the quake, when the international community pledged $5.7 billion in aid. Canadians sent more than $200 million in emergency relief, much of it collected through Catholic charities.

A Church under attack

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Polp fatimaThe year 2010 will be remembered as months when religious intolerance repeatedly made the news and Catholics were often asked to stand up for their faith.

Perhaps a similar sentiment is expressed at the close of many years. But for various reasons these calls to action seemed more pressing in 2010 and were embodied in four stories that shaped the headlines in the Catholic press.

Peace and joy

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nativityEvery December the media runs stories on corporations or individuals who deliver bah-humbugs regarding the religious truth of Christmas. And without fail many Christians take the bait and allow anger and frustration to dilute their sense of peace and goodwill of the season.

As an example, this year a billboard battle has erupted on either side of the Lincoln tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York City. On one side, a group calling itself American Atheists purchased space to declare: “You Know it’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason.” Across the river, the Catholic League responded with a billboard that proclaims: “You Know it’s Real. This season, Celebrate Jesus.”

Fix the system

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Canada has a moral obligation to provide asylum to refugees fleeing persecution. And Parliament has a duty to enact tough laws to target smugglers and human traffickers who exploit these people.

On those broad points, Canada’s Catholic immigration minister, Jason Kenney, and Canada’s bishops are in agreement. So it is distressing to see them at odds over Bill C-49, proposed legislation that would hit smugglers with mandatory jail time and nail ship operators with strict penalties.

Pray for life

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babyIt was a welcomed coincidence that the inaugural worldwide Prayer Vigil for All Nascent Human Life occurred as The Register was preparing our annual issue dedicated to Life and Family.

At the request of Pope Benedict XVI vigils were held Nov. 27 around the world. It was an extraordinary undertaking and many bishops commented that they could recall nothing like it in the history of the Church.