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{mosimage}He was a small man, poor, sickly, uneducated and with no discernible skills or talents. He had little more than the clothes on his back and his faith when he showed up at the door of the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal some 140 years ago. At first, he was turned away, but later told to come inside.

That simple act of welcome set in motion an unlikely life of healing and service that culminated in the Feb. 19 announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that Blessed Brother André (born Alfred Bessette) will be canonized Oct. 17 in Rome. He follows St. Marguerite d’Youville as just the second Canadian-born saint.

A time to give

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{mosimage}In Charity in Truth Pope Benedict XVI described charity as “love received and given,” and as the 2010 ShareLife appeal is launched the pontiff’s words are being put to action.

In the archdiocese of Toronto a parishioner who has donated anonymously in the past stepped forward on the eve of this campaign with a pledge to match up to $500,000 in new money collected by ShareLife. Not only will every dollar from first-time donors be matched, but every dollar above last year’s contribution by previous donors will also be doubled by this nameless benefactor.

Ignatieff's sad argument

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{mosimage}In previous editions, The Catholic Register has called abortion-on-demand Canada’s greatest collective sin and our government’s inaction on the issue our greatest national shame. Now opposition leader Michael Ignatieff is calling on the government to export our abortion culture overseas as part of an otherwise worthy government initiative to provide basic health care for sick and dying women and children.

Bishop Fred Henry and Archbishop Thomas Collins got it right when, respectively, they called Ignatieff’s comments “pathetic” and “astonishing.”

The honor of the Olympics

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{mosimage}The Olympic Games can be too political, too commercial and too often a platform for cheaters. Yes, they are flawed, and in that they resemble God’s children — damaged but worthwhile, imperfect but noble, scarred but wonderful.

The Winter Games open in Vancouver on Feb. 12 and we hope Canadians slow down to absorb and enjoy this 16-day spectacle because, despite the warts, there is much to celebrate.

Haiti's church in need

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{mosimage}The self-described Friends of Haiti took a commendable first step on Jan. 25 when this coalition of wealthy nations, in Montreal for a conference chaired by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, committed to a multi-billion-dollar, multi-year plan to rebuild Haiti.

But there was at least one major reconstruction project overlooked in Montreal even though it is urgent to the Catholic population of the impoverished people of Haiti: Who will help rebuild their church?

Hope, dignity & Haiti

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{mosimage}In a radio interview after Port-au-Prince had been destroyed, a Haitian-Canadian said she prayed the world would unite to build a new Haiti where abject poverty could be replaced by dignified poverty.

It was a stunningly poignant comment from someone grieving the deaths of both parents and the destruction of a beloved homeland. In her words, the abject poor have nothing whereas the dignified poor have at least meager means to acquire the basics of food, clothing and shelter.

One church, many faces

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{mosimage}Congratulations to Canada’s two new auxiliary bishops, Bishops William McGrattan, 53, and Vincent Nguyen, 43. Their recent ordinations and calls to serve the archdiocese of Toronto provide an injection of new ideas and fresh energy that can only benefit a Catholic community undergoing rapid growth both in sheer numbers and in challenges associated with the region’s ever-widening cultural mosaic.

Their backgrounds are strikingly different. McGrattan, the oldest of two children, was born and raised in the comfort of London, Ont.; Nguyen, one of nine children, was born near Saigon during the Vietnam War and fled to Canada with other “boat people” refugees in 1983. But they carry the same reputation of being skilled at listening, understanding and caring, essential qualities as they become vicars of an archdiocese in transition.

Security conundrum

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{mosimage}The recent security measures announced by Ottawa may be good and ultimately necessary but they represent a troubling infringement on privacy and should be stalled until they can be brought to Parliament for a full and proper debate.

But that debate is not in the cards. Parliament was prorogued in December and will not resume until March. By then, according to Transport Minister John Baird, travellers in eight Canadian cities could be facing full body screening — virtual strip searches — as scanning machines are installed at airports.

Canadian government dishonest on KAIROS

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{mosimage}By linking KAIROS with anti-Semitic organizations, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has probably revealed more about the Conservative government than the church-based agency that has blindly (maybe naively) wandered into the government cross-hairs. None of it is flattering.

Speaking in Jerusalem on Dec. 18, Kenney told the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism that the government had implemented zero-tolerance standards for anti-Semitism. Laudable so far. But when Kenney rhymed off several organizations that lost their funding due to unacceptable practices, the list included KAIROS, the multi-faith partnership of church groups that includes the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Welcome publicity from creche controversy

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{mosimage}It was petty of Toronto bureaucrats to demand that a tribute to Fr. Ted Colleton be removed from a Nativity scene outside Old City Hall. But like the Grinch, their mean-spiritedness provided a timely, if inadvertent, reminder of the spiritual truth of Christmas.

The brouhaha erupted when a local do-gooder became upset because he noticed a Nativity scene that was  associating Jesus, Mary and Joseph with the virtues of life and family. That mankind’s holiest family are the standard for the sanctity of family life would seem as obvious as city hall itself. But, this being the 21st century, a letter was fired off to the mayor and, quicker than you can say Big Brother, the Nativity scene was  stripped of its pro-life endorsement.

Court gets it right

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{mosimage}Christians living in several Middle East, African and Asian nations are routinely persecuted and often killed. It is a serious issue that is generally overlooked amid the many international and domestic matters that occupy our media and political leaders.

So it was as welcomed as it was rare to see a Federal Court judge overrule an immigration department official and grant a temporary order last week allowing a Catholic convert from Guinea to remain in Canada. Lamine Yansané is seeking permanent refugee status claiming that his father, a fundamentalist imam, had ordered his death — declared a fatwa against him — if he is returned to Guinea.