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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.

Do right by nature

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{mosimage}World leaders are descending on Copenhagen this week for a UN climate conference that seeks an aggressive strategy to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Their ultimate goal is a new international agreement to replace the failed 1990 Kyoto accord.

It is an ambitious undertaking and, even before it starts, Canada has been cast among the villains. The UN General Secretary has singled out Canada as lacking stringent reduction targets. Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore has been targeting the Alberta tar sands as a threat to the planet’s survival. The left-leaning Guardian newspaper of London published a column that called Canada a “corrupt petro-state” that, more than any other nation, has been trying to sabotage a new climate agreement.

Church seeks media fairness

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{mosimage}Perhaps the only thing tougher for a New Yorker than fighting city hall is taking on the mighty New York Times. So all Catholics should applaud New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan for publicly criticizing the anti-Catholic bias found not only on the pages of the The Times, but pervasive throughout the media. 

Dolan wasn’t speaking for Canada when he wrote an essay recently that labelled media prejudice against the Catholic Church “a national pastime.” But his comments apply on both sides of the border. Canada’s mainstream media, like its southern cousin, often operates with one set of rules for minority religions and another for the Catholic Church. Maybe it’s time we also got angry.

End indifference

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{mosimage}In the time it takes to read this sentence, somewhere on the planet a child will die of starvation. That’s one dead child every five seconds, six million children this year, out of one billion undernourished people in the world, according to statistics from the United Nations.

Those are the eye-popping numbers rolled out at the opening of a three-day world food summit in Rome. Organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) , the summit was convened to study how to replace inadequate and inefficient aid programs with well-funded initiatives to make poor nations self-sufficient in food.

Euthanasia is not appropriate care

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{mosimage}It was bound to happen but it nonetheless came as a shock to hear doctors endorse the position that, when other treatments fail, it may sometimes be acceptable to simply kill the patient.

In effect, that is the position of the Quebec College of Physicians in a policy paper that says euthanasia can be an ethical and viable option for doctors when a patient, facing “imminent and inevitable” death, is suffering extreme pain. As put by one doctor: “We are saying death can be an appropriate type of care in certain circumstances.”