{mosimage}LIMA, Peru - While media attention focuses on looting and relief efforts in Concepcion, the largest city near the epicenter of a magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile Feb. 27, Catholic Church workers are struggling to reach quake victims in rural areas.

“We are receiving funds to help the poorest people, who are in the countryside,” Fr. Waldo Alfaro, head of the Caritas Chile office in Linares, said March 1 in a telephone interview. Linares is in the Maule region, where most of the quake deaths occurred.

Pope prays for Chile quake victims, Catholics pitch in to help

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI prayed for the victims of the massive earthquake in Chile and pledged the assistance of Catholic relief organizations.

The Pope made the remarks at his noon blessing Feb. 28, the day after a magnitude 8.8 quake struck the South American country, triggering giant waves and leaving at least 700 dead.

"My thoughts are with Chile and with the populations stricken by the earthquake, which caused great loss of life and terrible damage," the Pope said from his apartment window above St. Peter's Square.

Irish abuse victims express anger with Pope

{mosimage}DUBLIN, Ireland - Victims of clerical child sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin said they are close to despair because the church will not take full responsibility for covering up the abuse.

Clergy abuse survivors met with Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Feb. 19 to discuss the outcome of the meeting of Irish bishops with Pope Benedict XVI and senior officials from the Roman Curia. The Feb. 15-16 Vatican meeting reviewed a November report by an independent commission that investigated how the archdiocese handled complaints of clerical child sexual abuse between 1975 and 2004. The commission “found that the church deliberately covered up allegations of child abuse, but the only senior person who seems to accept that is Archbishop Martin,” Maeve Lewis, director of the One in Four abuse survivors’ group, told Catholic News Service.

Irish bishops must face abuse fallout

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY  - Pope Benedict XVI said priestly sexual abuse was a “heinous crime” and a grave sin, and he urged Irish bishops to act courageously to repair their failures to deal properly with such cases.

At the end of a two-day Vatican summit on the sex abuse scandal in Ireland, the Vatican said in a statement Feb. 16 that “errors of judgment and omissions” were at the heart of the crisis. It said church leaders recognized the sense of “pain and anger, betrayal, scandal and shame” that those errors have provoked among many Irish Catholics.

Haitian relief total climbs

{mosimage}TORONTO - Canadians have raised $113 million for Haitian relief following that nation’s devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, a significant chunk of that coming from Catholics.

Beverley Oda, Minister of International Co-operation, announced Feb. 8 that $113 million in “eligible donations” had been raised by Canadians and would be matched by the government as promised with the creation of the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund Jan. 14.

Saints win a sign of hope for New Orleans

{mosimage}NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond said the New Orleans Saints’ win in Super Bowl XLIV was “not just a football victory.”

“I think it’s another sign of hope in that our rebuilding is not just a possibility — it’s a reality,” the New Orleans native said after the underdog Saints, playing in their first Super Bowl, won in a 31-17 comeback over the Indianapolis Colts.

Abortionist killer Scott Roeder convicted

{mosimage}WICHITA, Kan. - A Kansas jury deliberated just under 40 minutes before convicting a man of first-degree murder for killing an abortion provider.

The jury found Scott Roeder, 51, guilty of murdering Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion doctor who operated a clinic in Wichita where late-term abortions were performed. Roeder faces life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 25 years; he is to be sentenced March 9.

Desire for sacraments not sufficient reason for annulment, Pope says

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - True pastoral charity and concern can never lead the church to grant an annulment to a Catholic whose marriage is valid according to church law, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"One must shun pseudo-pastoral claims" that look only at the desire of divorced Catholics to return to the sacraments, the Pope said Jan. 29 in his annual speech to officials of the Roman Rota, a tribunal that mainly deals with appeals filed in marriage annulment cases.

Canadian schools lend support to Haiti

{mosimage}TORONTO - When Grade 9 student Jeremy Addoty spoke at a service in front of students and teachers at Brampton’s Cardinal Ambrozic High School, he appealed for prayers for missing relatives and those who survived the devastating Haitian earthquake.

Haitian-born St. Ignatius of Loyola High School teacher Pierre-Michel Laveau is also doing what he can to help friends and family cope after the disaster by sending money to those in need.

Canadian orphanage in Haiti holding on

{mosimage}TORONTO - Close to 70 girls at a Catholic-run orphanage who survived Haiti’s devastating earthquake are sleeping on the streets of Port-au-Prince with little food and water and are still awaiting outside help since the disaster struck Jan. 12, says Frank Chauvin.

Chauvin, a retired police detective in Windsor, Ont., told The Catholic Register that three 18-year-old girls and one worker from his orphanage run by the non-profit organization Le Foyer des Filles de Dieu died after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti. But 67 girls at the orphanage and its director survived. At least 30 other children have joined them on the streets and are sharing their food and water.

John Paul II practised self-mortification, new book says

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II always took penitence seriously, spending entire nights lying with his arms outstretched on the bare floor, fasting before ordaining priests or bishops and flagellating himself, said the promoter of his sainthood cause.

Msgr. Slawomir Oder, postulator of the late pope’s cause, said Pope John Paul used self-mortification “both to affirm the primacy of God and as an instrument for perfecting himself.”