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When Pope Benedict XVI was elected to replace the inimitable Pope John Paul II, he promised to carry on his beloved successor's work, particularly that related to ecumenism. As is often the case, the press of events can overtake the best laid plans and so ecumenism has often appeared to play second fiddle to other issues.

Useful suffering

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Every year in February, the Catholic Church marks the special place it holds in its heart for the sick, the suffering, the dying. The World Day of the Sick, held this year on Feb. 11, draws our attention to Christ's own compassion during His years on earth for those needing physical healing.

Still with us

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Each year the Pope delivers a wide-ranging speech to the 175 or so ambassadors assigned by their countries to the Holy See. It is an occasion for the leader of the world's largest church to turn a spotlight on some of those global issues that are too easily forgotten in the fickleness and superficiality of the daily news grind.

No stacked deck

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Just before Christmas, in one of those quiet moves governments make when everyone's attention is somewhere else, Health Minister Tony Clement announced the membership of the new board to run the Assisted Human Reproduction Canada agency. It has been a long time coming.

Cardinal Ambrozic

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The announcement of who would be the next archbishop of Toronto has been much anticipated, not least by Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic himself. At almost 77, he gets a well-deserved rest after labouring 30 years as bishop in that Lord's vineyard we call the archdiocese of Toronto.

The same-sex marriage debate is far from dead

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Sometimes politicians have a rather exalted sense of their own authority. Witness the comments in the aftermath of the vote in the House of Commons Dec. 7 over same-sex marriage.

For all humanity

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At this year's Midnight Mass we read Luke's famous nativity account in which the shepherds in the field first hear the good news of the birth of Jesus Christ from an angel: "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people." Christians recognize that it was indeed good news, but sometimes it is easy to forget it was for "all the people."

The real nation

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The air in Canada these days has the acrid odour of Rome burning while Nero fiddles. All the debate over whether Quebecois (presumably francophone Quebecers) constitute a "nation" provides a convenient distraction from the real challenges facing the real nation.

Making room

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A recent poll suggests that Canadians still embrace multiculturalism and religious diversity. At the same time, the survey shows that at some point newcomers must find ways to accommodate themselves to this country's deepest principles.

Shifting grounds

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With the reversal of a few percentage points in voting patterns, there has been a veritable tectonic shift in American attitudes toward the Iraq War. The punishment inflicted on U.S. President George Bush and his Republican party has opened up the potential for real progress.

Ethical progress

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In an age of polar opposites – right vs. left, science vs. religion, rich vs. poor, orthodox vs. heterodox, radical individualism vs. community rights – can we ever really hope to find common ethical grounds for how we order society? For ethicist Margaret Somerville, the answer to that question is yes.