{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - A new Vatican document warned that certain recent developments in stem-cell research, gene therapy and embryonic experimentation violate moral principles and reflect an attempt by man to “take the place of his Creator.”

The latest advances raise serious questions of moral complicity for researchers and other biotech professionals, who have a duty to refuse to use biological material obtained by unethical means, the document said.

Loretto Sisters meet needs of their community for 400 years

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{mosimage}TORONTO - The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary , commonly known as the Loretto Sisters, continues to serve the needy in a variety of ministries as the worldwide order celebrates its 400th anniversary this year.

While the order’s early years during the Protestant Reformation were rough at best, its introduction to Canada nearly 250 years later also met with some dramatic obstacles. Five sisters, sent to Toronto from Ireland in 1847 to teach Irish immigrants, landed in the midst of a deadly typhus outbreak which took the life of Toronto’s Bishop Michael Power just weeks after their arrival. Within the year, a few of the sisters had passed away themselves, unprepared for the harsh Canadian winter. However, the survivors were later joined by more sisters from Ireland, and today the order here still counts as many as 100 religious sisters, mostly based in Toronto and Guelph, but also present in Saskatchewan, who strive to emulate the charisms of their foundress, Mary Ward.

Native parish honours past

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{mosimage}WINNIPEG - It is a cold Sunday morning at a small Catholic church in a working-class neighbourhood of Winnipeg.

The Eucharistic Prayer has just ended, and the priest is holding the body and blood of Christ above the altar. When the drum beat begins, it pounds like a human heart. A woman sings in Ojibway.

Reaching out to urban aboriginals

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{mosimage}OTTAWA - Like incense, the white smoke of smouldering sweetgrass, cedar, sage and tobacco rises from a seashell as a small group of church-goers pray in the four cardinal directions, giving thanks to the Creator. As Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J. , celebrates Mass, he does so in front of a wall papered with the view of a forest. 

This scene — where aboriginal Catholics in Ottawa welcomed Prendergast to celebrate Mass at the Kateri Native Ministry office — was certainly not the first time Catholicism and native spirituality have intertwined. But it is a growing reality in cities like Ottawa and Toronto where the population of First Nations, Metis and Inuit people is growing.

Recession affects hospitals' ethical decisions

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{mosimage}TORONTO - The world’s economic crisis hasn’t caught Catholic hospitals in Toronto unawares.

Although all Ontario hospitals are more than likely to encounter financial struggles this year, health care rationing and budget adjustments are all too familiar to Catholic institutions, said Hazel Markwell, executive director of the Centre for Clinical Ethics in Toronto.

Reviving the call for nuclear disarmament

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{mosimage}Canada's former foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy wants to re-embrace the moral vision of the nation’s nuclear weapons policy of 1945.

“To use nuclear weapons as a symbol of your greatness is not only immoral, it is pure mystique,” Axworthy told The Catholic Register. “Somehow there’s a perversion taking place. Rather than saying that one’s contribution to reducing poverty or changing the environment is to be a demonstration of one’s greatness, we’re using nuclear weapons because it is the ultimate weapon.”

The history of Lent

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Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the period of penance, prayer and sacrifice that precedes the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. 

Since the earliest days of the church there is evidence of some form of Lenten preparation for Easter; but the duration and nature of this preparation took countless centuries to evolve and is still changing even today.  

Aid agencies seek recession relief

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{mosimage}TORONTO - The fear, suffering and sacrifice on Bay Street are nothing but nicks and cuts compared to the body blows the poor will suffer in this recession, according to church agencies that serve single mothers, the homeless and families in distress.

“Recession is a really hard time for people on social assistance, obviously,” said Rosalie Hall executive director Alan Nickell. Rosalie Hall helps hundreds of young women every year as they face pregnancy without an adequate place to live, without a job and without prospects.

Following St. Paul to Cyprus

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{mosimage}PAPHOS, Cyprus - When I visited Cyprus recently, St. Paul the Apostle was the furthest thing from my mind. I was looking forward to touring the island mythology claims as the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love. It wasn’t until I reached the city of Paphos I was reminded Cyprus was Paul’s first stop on a phenomenal lifetime of evangelism. 

Around 47, accompanied by Barnabas and Mark, Paul introduced this beautiful island to a newer understanding of the word “love” in the person of Jesus Christ. That story is succinctly told in Acts of the Apostles: chapter 13:2-12. Barnabas, Paul and Mark are directed by the Holy Spirit to set out for Cyprus, which author H.V. Morton accurately describes as “a perfect blend of mountain and plain, of hills that slope to deserted bays half screened by olive trees.” After preaching in Salimas’s synagogues, they travelled to Paphos on the island’s luxuriant south coast, again preaching in Jewish synagogues.

Conversations with Calvin

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{mosimage}TORONTO - Rev. Paul Bong Kyu Choi is not your grandfather’s kind of Calvinist. He’s definitely not Scottish, nor Dutch, and seems quite uninterested in the sort of dogmatic absolutism that translates into rules against dancing or contempt for Catholics trafficking in hocus-pocus spirituality and mystery.

The pastor of Toronto’s Holy Mountain Presbyterian Church is from Korea, where 19th-century Calvinist preaching swept the Asian nation and became the first widely successful brand of Christianity there. He is also working on his PhD thesis under Jesuit Father John Dadosky at Regis College. The Knox College student chose a Catholic thesis supervisor to deepen his understanding of iconic 20th-century Catholic monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton.