{mosimage}OTTAWA - From soldiers on the ground, to special arrangements for Haitian immigrants, to gifts of cash, the Canadian government has mobilized a multi-pronged disaster-relief effort in Haiti.

At an Ottawa news conference Jan. 19, International Development Minister Bev Oda announced a $60 million contribution to the United Nations appeal for Haiti. This includes $39 million towards food and the security for food distribution and $15 million to UNICEF’s health, water and sanitation programs.

Pope John Paul II shooter released from Turkish jail

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - The man who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981 was released Jan. 18 from a Turkish prison.

Mehmet Ali Agca, 52, was taken from prison to a military hospital to be assessed for compulsory military service, which is obligatory for all Turkish men. Agca fled the military draft in the 1970s.

Visiting Rome synagogue, pope honors memory of Holocaust victims

{mosimage}ROME (CNS) -- Laying a wreath at a memorial to Roman Jews rounded up by the Nazis in 1943 and joining in a standing ovation to a dwindling group of Holocaust survivors, Pope Benedict XVI broke the ice with Rome's Jewish community even before he began to speak.

The pope made his first visit to Rome's main synagogue Jan. 17, strongly affirming the Catholic Church's commitment to improving Catholic-Jewish relations, its respect and appreciation for Jewish faith, its condemnation of anti-Semitism and his own hope that Catholics and Jews can work together to bring biblical values back to society.

Canadian Catholic response to Haiti quake 'phenomenal' so far

{mosimage}By 5:15 the afternoon of Jan. 14 — a day after a catastrophic earthquake collapsed buildings and killed thousands in Haiti — Catholics had overwhelmed the computer servers and phone systems at the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

The level of generosity "is phenomenal," said Development and Peace spokesperson Jasmine Fortin.

Haitian archbishop who died in quake portrayed as a humble man

{mosimage}WASHINGTON - Haitian Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot was known as a humble man who was close to the poor in the archdiocese of Port-au-Prince.

Archbishop Miot, 63, was among tens of thousands of Haitians who died in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Pope urges aid for Haitian quake victims

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI prayed for victims of a massive earthquake in Haiti and urged the international community to provide generous assistance to the stricken population of the Caribbean nation.

The Pope made his appeal at the end of his general audience Jan. 13, some 12 hours after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck Haiti, toppling buildings and causing widespread destruction.

Pope meets, forgives Christmas Eve attacker

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - As a sign of his forgiveness, Pope Benedict XVI met with the woman responsible for knocking him down during a Christmas Eve Mass, a papal spokesman said.

The Pope met with Susanna Maiolo after leading his weekly general audience Jan. 13 in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a written statement.

Charges dropped against refugee advocate

{mosimage}Charges against an American refugee advocate for bringing 12 Haitians to the U.S.-Quebec border where they claimed refugee status were quietly dropped in November.

Janet Hinshaw-Thomas — founder of Prime — Ecumenical Commitment to Refugees in Pennsylvania and niece of the late theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles — was arrested in Lacolle, Que., Sept. 28, 2007. She had called ahead to say she was bringing 12 Haitian asylum-seekers. She had often brought refugees to Canadian border posts to file for refugee status.

Pope's calendar full for 2010

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has said goodbye to 2009, but his 2010 calendar is already being filled.

On the horizon for the next 12 months are four papal trips; a Middle East Synod of Bishops; the expected publication of a document on the Bible and the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth; a major gathering of the world’s priests; a pilgrimage to the Shroud of Turin; a probable consistory and several likely canonizations and beatifications — including that of Pope John Paul II.

Sainthood causes advanced for John Paul II, Pius XII

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI advanced the sainthood causes of Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII, declaring that both had lived lives of “heroic virtues.”

In signing the decrees Dec. 19, the Pope confirmed the recommendations of Vatican officials who have studied the causes for several years. Both popes can be beatified once a miracle is attributed to their intercession.

D&P prepared in case Philippines volcano erupts

{mosimage}Filipinos will be happy to see the back of 2009. As Christmas approaches the Filipino community is bracing for another natural disaster in their home country.

The Mayon volcano, a 2,460-metre mountain in central Philippines, has been spewing lava, smoke and ash in a mild state of eruption since mid-December. Volcanologists expect the mountain to erupt more severely any day, and state authorities have called out police, soldiers and others to try to keep 47,000 evacuees in temporary shelters from sneaking back into their homes for Christmas.