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Pope and WilliamsPope Benedict XVI will land in Britain on Sept. 16 and when commentators suggest preparations are almost complete what they really mean is the lions are being ushered into the den.

In this case, the lions would be all those individuals, groups, politicians and, of course, the media who are licking their chops at the prospect of getting their claws into Benedict XVI on home soil.

In only the second papal visit to Britain since Henry VIII split with Rome in 1534, and the first since Pope John Paul II drew huge crowds in 1982, Benedict will meet with the Queen, other political and religious dignitaries and be serenaded by Susan Boyle. But the crescendo will be the beatification Mass of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Birmingham on the final morning of the four-day tour.

Show compassion towards refugees

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Refugee boatIt has been said that on the question of refugees and immigration there are no easy answers. That’s probably true in the sense that “easy” implies there can be a public consensus, intelligent policy and seamless implementation and oversight. But admitting there are no easy solutions to migration issues needn’t mean the way forward is unclear.

Responding recently to an ongoing expulsion of Roma immigrants from France, Pope Benedict XVI reminded Catholics that compassion and tolerance must always guide our thoughts and actions when confronted by people in need.

Deal us out of internet gambling

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internet gamblingWithin two years anyone in Ontario with access to the Internet and a credit card will be able — and probably encouraged — to gamble in a government-run online betting parlour.

Cash poor and morally hobbled, the provincial government of Dalton McGuinty intends to bring legalized online gambling to Ontario by 2012 despite fears about dire social and spiritual consequences. To put this in language his betting public will appreciate, the premier’s decision is as unwise as drawing to an inside straight.

Honour Sr. Roach

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Sister Simone RoachThe Church has received little good news of late so we should take a moment to celebrate last month’s announcement that Sr. Simone Roach has been named to the Order of Canada.

Admittedly, this editorial is a few weeks late and might not have come at all but for some second guessing being directed towards Sr. Roach. There is a school of thought that holds that Sr. Roach — and, for that matter, all Catholics — should refuse the Order of Canada because two years ago it was given to abortionist Henry Morgentaler. Not to diminish the shame of that decision, but it seems unfair to tar Sr. Roach with Morgentaler’s brush.

The right call

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Canada Census 2011The world has come a long way since Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to be counted in King Herod’s census. In our technological age, information and statistics shape our everyday living. Our personal information is digitally stored and used by everybody from the taxman, health providers and bankers to government licensing agencies that keep track of everyone from drivers to fishermen to hot-dog vendors.

There seems to be almost universal agreement that gathering detailed data is essential to a smooth-running society. But how far should governments go to collect a citizen’s personal information? That is the crux of a debate sparked by a federal announcement that Canadians will no longer face fines and possible jail time for refusing to complete the long-form version of the Statistics Canada census.

Crusading cardinal

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Cardinal Jaime OrtegaEvery Sunday morning for seven years the Ladies in White attended Mass at Havana’s Santa Rita Church then marched in peaceful protest for husbands, fathers and sons locked up as political prisoners in Cuban jails.

For the most part, the marches were silent and easily ignored by the Castro government. Then last March, to mark the seventh anniversary of  the “Black Spring,” when 75 dissidents were arrested, hastily tried and harshly sentenced, the Ladies in White became bolder, marching into off-limit Havana neighbourhoods. The government dispatched agents to disrupt the marches and harass the women. That brought Cuba’s crusading 73-year-old cardinal into the fray. Cardinal Jaime Ortega celebrated Mass with the women at Santa Rita and then took up their cause with the government of President Raul Castro.

Progress made

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Maternal HealthIf you look past the crazy billion-dollar price tag, the trampling of civil liberties and the street thuggery that marked the G8 and G20 meetings, it’s possible to see light in the summit tunnel.

Of course, ignoring the excesses is a challenge. To have almost a billion dollars spent on security and still see gangs of petty criminals terrorizing shopkeepers, torching police cars, smashing windows and drowning out legitimate peaceful protests is beyond scandalous. And to have police, in addition to arresting real criminals, round up hundreds of citizens solely because they lacked the common sense to stay indoors is appalling.

Let the truth be told

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TRCC logoCanadians often express pride in building a nation that respects and celebrates cultural diversity. But as true as that might be today, our national back-patting takes a short view of history. For most of Canada’s existence, Ottawa directed a cruel policy at aboriginal peoples that is rightly likened to cultural genocide.

Canadians are being asked to confront that dark era at a series of public events organized by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools. The first of seven meetings, held recently in Winnipeg, saw dozens of survivors and their families courageously step to a microphone and have their personal stories preserved as a paragraph in Canadian history.

Put people first

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The billion-dollar cost for the upcoming summits of world leaders is obscene and the disruption the meetings will cause is outrageous. Ottawa is rightly being roasted on those scores. But the real tragedy from the gathering of G8 and G20 leaders is that, once again, there seems to be a famine of big ideas among the world’s most powerful statesmen.

We’re not so naive to believe there are quick fixes for a world that is broken in so many ways. Most of society’s problems are either made or exacerbated by man. That is true whether speaking about oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, war in Afghanistan, famine and disease in Africa, poverty among North American aboriginal peoples, blockades in Gaza and international financial turmoil. The list goes on.

Seeking truth

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What is the role of Catholic media in modern society?

Several hundred journalists from across North America were invited to ponder that question during the  Catholic Press Association annual conference, held recently in New Orleans.  

These have been difficult days for the Church and challenging days for Catholic media. Not only has the news been filled with stories of clerical sexual abuse and alleged Church coverups, but the technology-challenged Church hierarchy has often stumbled in offering a timely defence or authoritative explanation of Church positions.

Instant communication in a digital age has put pressure on traditional media such as newspapers and television to rethink how they conduct business. The result is often a softening of fundamental values  as the old media strains to keep pace with the new, a manic technological beast of web sites, blogs and various social media tools that, collectively, disseminate information instantly but not always accurately.

Don't fear faithful

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fearThere is an unfortunate trend in Canada to try to deny religion its rightful place in the debating rooms of the nation.

We’ve seen this tendency manifest recently in the publication of an alarmist book about the so-called Christian right’s influence in Ottawa, in attacks on Cardinal Marc Ouellet for affirming Church teaching and, most recently, in shrill reaction after the head of Opus Dei accepted an invitation to dine on Parliament Hill with MPs.