News/International

{mosimage}Caught  between the push and pull of more demand for help in poor countries and financial fears squeezing donations in rich countries, the world’s Catholic aid agencies are approaching Lent this year with caution.

At a Jan. 14-15 meeting near Amsterdam of the 16 European and North American Catholic agencies that make up CIDSE (a French acronym for International Co-operation for Development and Solidarity), agency heads and bishops discussed how the financial crisis will strain finances.

Pope welcomes election of new Russian patriarch

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{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said he learned "with joy" of the election of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad — a prelate he has met three times — as the new patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch-elect Kirill, 62, who had been in charge of ecumenical relations for the Russian Orthodox Church for the past 20 years, was elected patriarch of Moscow Jan. 27 on the first ballot cast by members of the church's local council. He will be enthroned Feb. 1 in Moscow as the successor of Patriarch Alexy II, who died in December after more than 18 years as head of the church.

Pope lifts Lefebvrites excommunications

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{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the excommunication of four bishops ordained against papal orders in 1988 by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The move was considered a major concession to the archbishop's traditionalist followers.

The Vatican said the decree removing the excommunication, signed Jan. 21 and made public three days later, marked an important step toward full communion with the Society of St. Pius X , founded by Lefebvre in 1970. It said some questions remain unresolved with the society, including its future status and that of its priests, and that these issues would be the subject of further talks.

Obama reverses ban on abortion funding

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{mosimage}WASHINGTON - Pro-life activists quickly denounced U.S. President Barack Obama's Jan. 23 signature on an executive order reversing the Mexico City policy, a move that clears the way for the federal government to provide aid to programs that promote or perform abortion overseas.

The Associated Press reported late in the afternoon that Obama signed an executive order reversing the ban that was first instituted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. Obama signed the order with no fanfare and with no news media in the room, a marked contrast to signings of executive orders earlier in the week.

Pope Benedict joins YouTube generation

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{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI asked young Catholics to use their computers, Facebook accounts, blogs and Internet video posts to share with their peers the joy of faith in Christ. And to underline his message, he launched a new Vatican site on YouTube, the world's largest on-line source of videos.

"Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm," the Pope told young people in his message for the 2009 celebration of World Communications Day.

Spanish judge to investigate Jesuit murders

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{mosimage}MADRID, Spain  - A Spanish judge has decided to open an investigation into the case of 14 members of the Salvadoran army accused of involvement in killing six Jesuit priests and two of their employees in 1989, during El Salvador’s civil war.

High Court Judge Eloy Velasco also decided not to try former Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani, accused of concealment of the crime, because of insufficient evidence.

Canadians share in historic U.S. moment

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{mosimage}TORONTO - It was a road trip of a lifetime for Newman Centre parishioner Monique Ferdinand.

The 26-year-old consultant made the 10-hour drive to Washington, D.C., with two friends for the inauguration of the United States’ first African-American president, Barack Obama, Jan. 20.

New U.S. president invokes religious heritage

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{mosimage}WASHINGTON - The United States' multiple religious traditions are "a strength, not a weakness," said President Barack Obama Jan. 20 in his inaugural address.

"Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness," said the nation's 44th president after he was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts, one of five Catholics on the Supreme Court.

Bishops take the side of peace

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{mosimage}Though the war was raging next door, European and North American bishops on an annual pilgrimage to visit Palestinian Christians in early January had no interest in deciding who was right and who was wrong in the war in Gaza, Archbishop James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian Conference of Bishops, said on his return to Canada.

"I'm not a politician and that's not why we went," Weisgerber said. "But it seems that the leadership on both sides is really not strong enough to mobilize public opinion to agree to peace."

Cardinal under fire for Gaza comments

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{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - The Gaza Strip increasingly is looking like “a big concentration camp” while egoism, hatred, poverty and injustice are fueling the continual slaughter in the Holy Land, said a top Vatican official.

“We are seeing a continual massacre in the Holy Land where the overwhelming majority has nothing to do with the conflict, but it is paying for the hatred of a few with their lives,” said Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

U.S. bishops pledge to work with Obama

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{mosimage}WASHINGTON - The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has pledged that he and his fellow prelates will work with the incoming administration of Barack Obama and the 111th Congress to "advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially the vulnerable and poor."

In a Jan. 13 letter to the president-elect, Chicago Cardinal Francis George offered a broad outline of policy priorities that concern the U.S. bishops, ranging from economic recovery that covers all segments of society to protecting the lives of the "most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family," especially unborn children. A corresponding letter was sent to Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and each member of Congress.