{mosimage}TORONTO - It’s been three years since Jim Loney narrowly escaped from Baghdad with his life. He marked the occasion with a book launch Nov. 26 which gathered dozens of people who had prayed and worked for his release.

Kidnappers held Loney and three other members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams captive four months, until an international military operation sprang them March 23, 2006. By then one of the four captives, American Tom Fox, had been killed by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, a previously unknown group.

There's room at (Royal York) inn

{mosimage}TORONTO - Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel is no stranger to old-fashioned Christmas giving, but gives it a modern twist.

Instead of giving away wrapped gifts, the hotel will be offering a free place to stay for people visiting hospitalized family members or for people from outside of the city who need daily medical treatment. The “Room at the Inn” program offers patients at St. Michael’s Hospital, Casey House Hospice or Hospice Toronto the opportunity of staying for up to as many as seven nights. So unlike Mary and Joseph in the Christmas story, those selected will have a pretty cosy refuge.

Economic stimulus can be found in Catholic social doctrine

{mosimage}OTTAWA - As Ottawa contemplates how to respond to the economic crisis, Catholic social teaching offers some guidance, but not enough to shape a consensus even among Catholic thinkers.

“The issue of how much fiscal stimulus the Canadian economy requires right now is very much a matter of prudential judgment,” said Richard Bastien, Catholic Civil Rights League National Capital director, who spent 31 years as an economist advising the Department of Finance.

Novalis gets a new English-language director

{mosimage}MONTREAL - Bayard Canada has appointed Joseph Sinasac to the newly created position of Publishing Director for Novalis, Canada's leading publisher of religious books and resources.

Sinasac, currently Publisher and Editor of The Catholic Register, will oversee the English-language division of Novalis from its Toronto office, including editorial, sales and marketing departments.

Oblate province returns Orders of Canada to protest Morgentaler award

{mosimage}TORONTO - In a protest against the award of the Order of Canada to abortion doctor Henry Morgentaler, a community of priests has returned its orders given to two well-known colleagues.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate — Assumption Province announced Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, that they were returning the awards given to Frs. Anthony Sylla and Michael Smith.

Ontario religious step up poverty-reduction demand

{mosimage}TORONTO - The people who started Ontario’s first free hospitals, ran the orphanages and founded schools that were once a ticket out of poverty are appealing to the government and people of Ontario to take up their fight and get serious about poverty reduction.

Thirty Ontario religious orders, representing hundreds of Sisters, Fathers and Friars, are publishing an open letter to the government and people of Ontario. The letter urges them to set hard targets for poverty reduction and enshrine them in law.

Faith groups backbone of Out of the Cold

{mosimage}TORONTO - Eighteen Toronto churches and synagogues are now open for meals and temporary shelter as part of the annual Out of the Cold program.

At St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on McCaul Street in downtown Toronto, Fr. Jon Hansen said there were 180 guests for dinner and 70 overnight guests, primarily men, on its first day, Nov. 23. The Out of the Cold program at the parish runs on Sundays from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. until April 5.

Refugee office launches Jan. 1

{mosimage}TORONTO - In response to increasing numbers of refugees seeking a home and to centralize the efforts of agencies working to help them, the archdiocese of Toronto will launch the Office for Refugees Jan. 1.

This new pastoral ministry office will be located at Catholic Crosscultural Services (CCS), an agency funded by Catholic Charities. CCS has more than 50 years of experience serving immigrants and refugees belonging to a diverse range of religious and cultural backgrounds.

WYD a highlight of Fantino's career

{mosimage}TORONTO - Ontario’s top policeman has seen a lot in his time, but his most memorable moment was being involved behind the scenes with World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto.

Julian Fantino, commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, regaled an audience of Catholic businesspeople Dec. 2 at St. Paul’s Basilica with stories about working on security matters relating to the visit of Pope John Paul II to Canada during that hot week in July when the pope was joined by hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world to pray and celebrate their faith together.

Jesus is the reason for the season

{mosimage}TORONTO - Don’t forget what Christmas is really about: the birth of Jesus.

That’s the message a Polish Catholic group in Mississauga hopes will resonate during the holidays.

Charities expect an uncertain year

{mosimage}TORONTO - For charities that rely on big donors, the stock market crash has made uncertainty the first principle of budgeting as they face a new year.

“Obviously Covenant House and every other charity are looking at their plans and how to approach this kind of time,” said Covenant House spokesperson Rose Cino. “Everyone is in the same boat. Would that we all had a crystal ball.”