Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, speaks April 4 at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee during an international conference on the clergy sex abuse scandal. Archbishop Martin was harsh in his assessment of most of the priest abusers he has met since becoming archbishop of Dublin in 2004. (CNS photo/Mike Gryniewicz, Marquette University Law School)MILWAUKEE — Much more remains to be done to "turn around the culture of an institution" that allowed thousands of children to be abused by priests in the archdiocese of Dublin, the head of the archdiocese told an international conference on the clergy sex abuse scandal April 4.

Opening the two-day conference at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was harsh in his assessment of most of the priest abusers he had met since becoming archbishop of Dublin in 2004.

"I can honestly say that with perhaps two exceptions, I have not encountered a real and unconditional admission of guilt and responsibility on the part of priest offenders in my diocese," Martin said. "Survivors have repeatedly told me that one of the greatest insults and hurts they have experienced is to see the lack of real remorse on the part of offenders even when they plead guilty in court."

Brother of slain Pakistani minister says he forgives murderers


Paul Bhatti, centre, meeting Pope Benedict XVI April 6. Bhatti's brother, Shahbaz, was a former Pakistani minister for minorities who was murdered by Islamic extremists last month. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters) ROME - Paul Bhatti, brother of the former Pakistani minister for minorities who was murdered by Islamic extremists, said he and his family forgive his brother's assassins.

Shahbaz Bhatti, who spoke out against Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws and encouraged religious freedom, was killed March 2.

Speaking to reporters in Rome April 5, Paul Bhatti said his family has forgiven Shahbaz's assassins, "because our faith teaches us to do this. Our brother Shahbaz was a Christian and the Christian faith tells us to forgive."

The brother participated in a conference sponsored by the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Rome-based Catholic lay organization active in international affairs. The conference was designed as a memorial to Shahbaz Bhatti and as a way to encourage the continuation of his mission of promoting interreligious dialogue in Pakistan.

Pope offers prayers for refugees feared dead after fleeing Libya


Italian  Police  and Coast Guard officers carry an injured refugee as he arrives  on the  Italian island of Lampedusa. (CNS photo/Vincenzo Tersigni,  Reuters)VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI offered prayers for at least 150 refugees, including women and children, whose boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa after they fled Libya.

"The tragedy of the death at sea of such a large number of migrants from North Africa trying to reach Europe has deeply saddened the Holy Father," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office.

Lombardi spoke April 7, the day after the Italian military and international aid agencies reported the sinking of the vessel, which may have been carrying as many as 300 passengers. The boat, which sailed from Libya, was carrying asylum seekers from Somalia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ivory Coast, Chad and Sudan, said the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration.

1,000 dead in Ivory Coast massacre

Soldiers loyal to Ivory Coast President-elect Alassane Ouattara move through the main city Abidjan (CNS photo/Emmanuel Braun, Reuters)VATICAN CITY - One thousand people were suspected to be dead or missing in the town of Duekoue, Ivory Coast, after clashes throughout the country intensified, according to Caritas Internationalis workers in the area.  

The alleged massacre occurred in a part of Duekoue controlled by president-elect  Alassane Ouattara during intense clashes March 27-29, Caritas said. Caritas is the Catholic Church’s aid and development agency.

Army forces and militia supporting Ouattara have been clashing with security personnel and others loyal to outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to leave office after Ouattara was declared the winner of elections Nov. 28. Some one million people have fled the violence, according to the United Nations.

Ecuador’s bishops accused of meddling in politics

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, right, has accused his nation’s Catholic bishops of interfering in politics. (CNS photo/Guillermo Granja, Reuters)QUITO, Ecuador - Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has accused the nation's bishops of interfering in politics after they commented about a May 7 referendum.

Correa said the bishops' statement was a veiled effort to support a "no" vote in the referendum, which had nothing to do with morals, faith or religion.

"What do the bishops have to do with this consultation?" he asked in a televised speech April 2.

The balloting includes two sets of questions. Affirmative answers to five questions would result in changes to the Ecuadorean Constitution. The other five are about legislation unrelated to the constitution.

Bishops offer views on international talks on Libya

A rebel fighter guards the final checkpoint on the road from Bin Jawad toward Nawfiliyah, where forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi have halted a rapid rebel advance in eastern Libya March 29. (CNS photo/Finbarr O'Reilly, Reuters)VATICAN CITY - The Vatican observer at the London conference on Libya said the situation in the North African country is forcing the international community to examine its obligation to intervene when the lives and rights of civilians are being threatened.

Meanwhile, another prelate, the bishop in Libya's capital, Tripoli, said it appears to him that people just want the fighting to continue.

"They want to continue the war," Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli of Tripoli told Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. "Arming part of the Libyan population against another part other doesn't seem to me to be a moral solution."

Pope seeks dialogue for Libya

A rebel fighter fires a cannon during a battle with forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi near Ras Lanuf, a major oil port in Libya. The Pope has called for a sus- pension of fighting and for a start to dialogue to restore peace. (CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for a suspension of fighting in Libya and the immediate start of a serious dialogue aimed at restoring peace to the North African country.

The Pope said he was increasingly concerned at the news from Libya, where rebels supported by U.S., Canadian and European air strikes have battled the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Following a UN directive authorizing all necessary measures to protect civilians, an international coalition of forces, led by warplanes from the United States, Canada, Britain and France, have been pounding Libyan military targets. The military mission was to be taken over by NATO on March 31 under the command of a Canadian,  Lieutenant-General Charlie Bouchard.

Sendai Catholics reach out to people hit by Japanese disasters


Uchidate Noboyuki, 33, pauses as he digs through the remains of his house that was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)SENDAI, Japan — Despite the post-tsunami chaos, parishioners of Kita Sendai Catholic Church have been busy delivering food aid to victims of the deadly quake and tsunami.

Hiroko Haga, one of the parishioners, told the Asian church news agency UCA News that persistent distribution difficulties in the city have meant that "people must stand in line for three hours to buy a slice of bread," so parishioners reach out not only to the homeless but also to the elderly and to nursing mothers for whom the endless lines would be too arduous.

The ongoing efforts of the parishioners form a natural extension of charitable activities in which the church was already active, reported UCA News.

Violent aftershocks — as strong as magnitude 6 on March 24 — and the continued disruption of gas supplies forced parishioners to cook meals with propane. Food was supplied by a variety of organizations, including Caritas Japan, food banks and ecumenical groups.

Libyan bishop calls on African Union to mediate end to crisis


Women take part in a rally supporting coalition airstrikes in Libya at the rebel-held city of Benghazi March 23. (CNS photo/Finbarr O'Reilly)VATICAN CITY — After five nights of listening to bombs exploding, the apostolic vicar of Tripoli, Libya, said it is time for the African Union to try to mediate an end to the violence.

"I have trust in African wisdom to resolve the crisis," Bishop Giovanni Martinelli of Tripoli told Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, on March 24.

"The Europeans are wrong to think they can resolve this with bombs. Let's allow space for mediation by the African Union."

U.S., British and French military began air strikes March 19 to weaken leader Moammar Gadhafi's military forces and their ability to retaliate against pro-democracy activists and innocent civilians. After the initial air raids, the U.S. government said European and NATO forces would take control of the operation.

Coalition must not lose sight of limits in Libya


Mourners react next to grave of a rebel killed by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in Ajdabiyah during a funeral in Benghazi, Libya, March 23. (CNS photo/Suhaib Salem, Reuters)LONDON - The head of Britain's military diocese has urged restraint in the ongoing military action against Libya.

Bishop Richard Moth said it was vital that coalition forces did not lose sight of the limits of their mission to protect civilians in the North African country. He said action against the armed services of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was only to defend civilians from attack.

In a March 23 statement released to Catholic News Service, Moth said: "The recent decision to enforce a no-fly zone over the country in order to protect the people of Libya sent a strong and clear message to the international community as a whole. Such action must serve only to provide defense for the defenseless," he said.

"It must be hoped that the necessity for the use of force is over as soon as possible and that international forces continue to make every effort to avoid loss of life and unnecessary damage to the country's infrastructure."

Pope calls on leaders to protect, allow aid for civilians in Libya


Vehicles belonging to Gadhafi forces explode after an airstrike by coalition forces. (CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)VATICAN CITY- Pope Benedict XVI made an urgent appeal to political and military leaders to protect the safety and security of civilians and guarantee the free flow of humanitarian aid inside Libya.

He said the "worrying news from Libya" in the past few days caused him "deep trepidation and fear," and he kept the North African country's people in his prayers during his Lenten retreat March 13-19.

Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square March 20 for the recitation of the Angelus, the pope said, "I address a pressing appeal to those who have political and military responsibilities" to ensure the safety and security of defenseless citizens as well as guarantee those offering emergency assistance have access to those in need.