{mosimage}What can you do in 30 seconds? A quick phone call, send an e-mail, have a brief conversation with a colleague or friend? Our staff at the archdiocese of Toronto ’s Office of Public Relations and Communications decided we’d try to reach one million people.

On the Monday of Holy Week, we launched “We Are Catholic ”, a campaign that attempts something a little different: using secular radio to speak to a diverse audience — active Catholics, lapsed Catholics and people of other faiths, or no faith at all.

{mosimage}I sometimes have people tell me I am a good father. I usually smile and think to myself: “If only they knew.” 

I’m sure people say such things because they know I have six children and they can’t figure out how I do it. 

One morning Jennifer, my wife, announced we should do a bit of a cleanup and I should plan a trip to the dump. I wasn’t happy about the cleaning part, but I welcomed a Saturday afternoon drive. I saw myself driving up the country roads with the windows down and the radio up.

{mosimage}When allegations surfaced that some funds from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace were going to a group that had ties to abortion advocates, a storm of protest was met by promises from church leaders for a swift and thorough review.

Subsequent to that came additional allegations of funds going directly or indirectly to other abortion-sympathetic agencies. In response, Development and Peace suspended funding to five Mexican groups and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops announced an investigation that will see two bishops join senior staff from Development and Peace on a mission to Mexico.

{mosimage}With the radio blaring Arabic music, we sit in the minibus, praying for a safe journey. It’s 7:30 a.m. and we are travelling from Jerusalem to Bethlehem as part of our Holy Week “backpacking pilgrimage.” No tour buses. Just us with a map and our rosaries.

We must go through the checkpoint to enter the separation barrier into the West Bank, and a part of us wonders if we will make it. Surprisingly, the two guards let us through, no questions asked. Not even a glance at our Canadian passports. It’s a relief we aren’t interrogated like our experience at Tel Aviv airport.

The separation wall, built to prevent terrorists from entering Israel, emerges into view with the graffiti of a lion devouring a bird wearing a black and white kaffiyeh (Arab headdress). This reflects what the Palestinians’ say is their life behind the wall: divided families, economic hardships and a sense of alienation.
{mosimage}On a plane last month taking him to Yaoundé, Cameroon, Pope Benedict XVI was asked whether the church’s approach to AIDS and HIV in Africa was realistic and effective.

First, the Holy Father explained the church’s holistic program. He pointed out how the church’s approach of dealing with ignorance and misery on many fronts is naturally different from the necessarily narrower approach of public policy. Then the Holy Father critiqued the further reduction of public policy to a single means and method: “the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it.”

{mosimage}According to a recent online survey in Britain, only 22 per cent of people could identify Easter as the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

That’s a startling number. And even taking into account the unscientific methodology that makes Internet surveying a suspect business, the finding evokes troubling questions.

Millions of Catholics worldwide will fill churches during Holy Week to celebrate the joy of Easter. But will all of them be rejoicing the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?
{mosimage}Last year I wrote about my eldest daughter’s life-changing school trip to the Dominican Republic to build houses in an impoverished mountain village. She vowed it would be the first of many such endeavours.

That experience led to her involvement with Free the Children , a charitable organization involving “a network of children helping children through education.”

{mosimage}Imagine how rapidly Christianity or any socio-political movement would have swept across the breadth of the ancient world if given the benefit of today’s ubiquitous communication technologies.

The Vatican’s recent announcement of a new YouTube channel to communicate its message to the world, and its exploration of other ways to use new media, if not surprising, is certainly an astute and pragmatic move.

{mosimage}Over the past few weeks I have read and re-read the articles in The Catholic Register beginning with Sheila Dabu’s article on Capt. Joseph Nonato and his feelings on faith and the circumstances in which he found himself in Afghanistan. The subsequent rebuke of Capt. Nonato by two letter writers left a rather sour taste in my mouth.

There seems to be a lack of knowledge and understanding of soldiering and the role that faith plays in the lives of soldiers.

Every person has the right and freedom to choose what they believe is best for them in their lives. The “armchair theologian” approach of those who believe a military career is un-“Christian” purports that those who choose to serve their country in uniform are condemning themselves in the eyes of God.  If, in reaching that conclusion, they think that any Christian, let alone a Catholic, wilfully seeks violence as an occupation, then they are grossly and sadly mistaken.
{mosimage}For those working in media education and advocacy, news and comment about papal statements tend to follow a predictable pattern. Within a lengthy speech or series of speeches, there will be mention of church teaching on sexuality. Regardless of what else was said, response will be swift, negative and sneering, sometimes not without an implication that really, perhaps celibate old men should not be addressing such matters at all.

So it was with Pope Benedict XVI’s recent trip to Africa. During a press conference en route, in answer to a question of which he had advance notice, he confirmed the church’s belief that condoms are not the answer to stemming the AIDS crisis. Reacting immediately, the Toronto Star quoted Stephen Lewis, chairman of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, who said the Pope must be “living on the moon” to reject such sound science as condoms as an AIDS preventative. The Halifax Chronicle Herald was perhaps more balanced, stating that condoms are not the complete solution, but editorializing that “Personal responsibility, as the Pope says, is the key. That, however, includes condom use.” In the Edmonton Sun, Lynn Cockburn advises that “the Pope’s attitude toward condoms, abortion and women has got to be significant in the field of paleontology.” Similar comment was available in most newspapers.

{mosimage}With just 18 words Pope Benedict XVI ignited an international fury that dominated headlines, dwarfed his good works in Africa and raised serious questions about the Vatican’s media savvy in a media-mad world.

The 18 words were extracted from a comment made by the Pope about  AIDS during an in-flight press conference, as follows: “The problem can not be overcome with the distribution of condoms: on the contrary, they increase the problem.”