NYC mosque demonstrationWASHINGTON - The controversy over plans to build an Islamic cultural centre and mosque a couple of blocks away from ground zero in New York is but the latest manifestation of a historic cycle of distrust of immigrants — and their faith.

Public outcry erupted this summer over plans to convert a former Burlington Coat Factory store, located a little more than two blocks from the World Trade Centre complex, into a nine-storey Islamic cultural centre, with a mosque included. The area’s Muslim community already uses the vacant retail space for worshippers who overflow from the al-Farah Mosque, about a dozen blocks north of the trade centre property, according to The Associated Press.

Priest reports anti-Christian bias in Pakistan aid distribution

Pakistan food handoutVATICAN CITY - Christians and other minorities affected by severe flooding in Pakistan are being discriminated against in government-run rescue and aid programs, said the director of pontifical missionary societies in Pakistan.

Fr. Mario Rodrigues, the Lahore-based director of the mission awareness and funding agencies, said, "While Caritas and the pontifical mission societies are working on providing humanitarian relief to displaced persons without discrimination of origin, race or religion, in other areas, the Christian refugees, even in the midst of this tragedy, are being treated as second-class citizens.

Honduras charges three linked to Canadian-owned mine

LONDON - Honduras' environmental prosecutor has filed criminal charges against two mining executives with a Canadian company and a former government official after a British Catholic aid agency provided evidence to show that they ignored the alleged pollution of rivers.

The mining officials, Christian Pineda and Renan Santamaria, could face up to six years in jail if convicted of contaminating water and polluting the environment around the San Martin gold mine, the largest open-cast gold mine in Central America until its closure in 2008. Pineda and Santamaria are employed by Entre Mares, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Goldcorp Inc., a gold-mining company based in Vancouver.

Pope does not accept resignation of Dublin auxiliary bishops

Archbishop Diarmuid MartinDUBLIN  - Pope Benedict XVI has decided not to accept the resignation of two Dublin auxiliary bishops who resigned in the wake of the Murphy Report investigation into clerical child abuse in the archdiocese.

Auxiliary Bishops Raymond Field and Eamonn Walsh resigned Dec. 24 after coming under intense pressure because they served as bishops during the period investigated by the Murphy Commission.

In a letter to priests of the Dublin archdiocese Aug. 11, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin confirmed the development.

Canadians ramp up Pakistan flood relief

Pakistan floodPakistani Christians are looking at a long road to recovery after the worst flooding in 80 years. Catholics in Canada and the United States are stepping up to help them rebuild.

Canada's Caritas partner, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has contributed an intial $50,000 to Caritas Pakistan efforts to aid 13.8 million people affected by the floods. The Canadian agency is accepting further donations at 1-888-664-3387 and at People can make cheques out to Development and Peace and mail them to Pakistan Floods, Development and Peace, 1425 René-Levesque Blvd. W., 3rd Floor, Montreal, QC, H3G 1T7.

D&P, Catholic aid agencies at forefront of rebuild

Haiti July 2010Six months after the earthquake, nobody wants to rebuild Haiti — at least not the Haiti from before the earthquake.

That Haiti was a country in which 30 per cent of its 9.2-million people suffered malnutrition, barely half the population over 15 could read and write, 80 per cent lived below the poverty line and 54 per cent lived in abject poverty. Infant mortality ran at 58.07 per 1,000 live births, about 12 times the rate in Canada.

Pope grants papal delegate broad powers over Legionaries

Archbishop Velasio De PaolisROME - Pope Benedict XVI has given his new papal delegate broad powers of authority over the Legionaries of Christ as part of a major Vatican-led reform of the order.

Italian Archbishop Velasio De Paolis has authority over the order's current superiors and can even override the order's constitutions. He will have a say in all areas of the order including its governance, decisions involving personnel, education and ordination, as well as how assets are spent.

Tensions increase after Pakistani Christian brothers shot dead in court

Pakistan ChristiansFAISALABAD, Pakistan - Two Christians have been killed, a church ransacked and shops burned as Muslim-Christian tensions erupted into five hours of violence in Faisalabad July 19.

Police restored order and dispersed the crowds by using shellfire. One day later, the situation remained tense, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

The murdered Christians were brothers who had been charged with publishing and distributing a blasphemous, anti-Islamic pamphlet. They were shot dead as they arrived at court to face the charges.

Catholic AIDS expert says study lends credibility to faith leaders' work

AIDS Demonstration ViennaVIENNA - A new UN AIDS study has lent credibility to faith leaders who have long argued that behavioural change was a key to combating the spread of the illness, says a Catholic expert on the disease.

"Within the United Nations, there is more and more attention to focusing on abstinence and the reduction of the number of sexual partners as well as the strategy of promoting condoms," U.S. Msgr. Robert Vitillo, special adviser to Caritas Internationalis on HIV and AIDS, told Catholic News Service. "This is a validation of what we've done."

New Vatican norms strengthen efforts against abusive priests

Father Federico LombardiVATICAN CITY - The Vatican has revised its procedures for handling priestly sex abuse cases, streamlining disciplinary measures, extending the statute of limitations and defining child pornography as an act of sexual abuse of a minor.

Vatican officials said the changes allow the Church to deal with such abuse more rapidly and effectively, often through dismissal of the offending cleric from the priesthood.

Cuban Church leaders help free political prisoners

Cuba Lady in WhiteHAVANA  - Following a July 7 meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana said the release of 52 political prisoners is under way and will continue over the next four months.

An announcement on the cardinal's web site said the process leading to the release began with a May 19 meeting with Castro by Ortega and Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez, president of the Cuban bishops' conference.

Spanish diplomatic sources July 8 said Spain's foreign minister has agreed to take in the 52 prisoners set for release.