{mosimage}WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama's executive order reversing the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research represents "a sad victory of politics over science and ethics," Cardinal Justin Rigali said shortly after the March 9 signing of the order at the White House.

The chairman of the  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities was among Catholic, pro-life and other leaders who criticized the reversal, which Obama had promised during his campaign.

Bishops hope African trip encourages peace

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - A group of Nigerian bishops expressed hope that Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to Africa will spur the troubled continent on a path toward peace, justice and reconciliation.

Three bishops from Nigeria said they are looking at Pope Benedict’s March 17-23 visit to Cameroon and Angola as an opportunity to show that the church wants to help heal divisions that continue to tear apart the continent.

Williamson apology not good enough for Vatican

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - The Vatican said Bishop Richard Williamson's statement of regret for denying the extent of the Holocaust does not meet the Vatican's demand that he publicly recant his position.

"The declaration of the bishop does not seem to respect the conditions established in the note of the Secretariat of State of Feb. 4, 2009, where it says that he 'must distance himself in an absolutely unequivocal and public way from his positions regarding the Shoah,' ” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Feb. 27.

Williamson 'regrets' Holocaust remarks

{mosimage}LONDON - Ultratraditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson said he regrets the remarks he made denying the extent of the Holocaust.

In a statement released Feb. 26, a day after he arrived in London, Williamson said his superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay, and Pope Benedict XVI "have requested that I reconsider the remarks I made on Swedish television four months ago because their consequences have been so heavy."

Sainthood cause opened for Canadian missionary

{mosimage}CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh - Bishop Patrick D'Rozario of Chittagong announced the opening of the sainthood cause of Canadian Holy Cross Brother Flavian Laplante, founder of a popular Marian shrine in Bangladesh.

D'Rozario also said that the shrine in Diang, which Brother Laplante started in 1976, has been elevated to a parish dedicated to Mary, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

Development paves way to African peace

{mosimage}WASHINGTON - The upcoming Synod of Bishops for Africa will give the continent’s Catholic bishops the opportunity to focus on some of the most pressing needs of people besieged by poverty, reeling from rebel violence and seeing little development assistance from their governments, said the archbishop of Gulu, Uganda.

“The synod assembly of Africa comes at a time when Africa in general and Uganda in particular is in need of reconciliation desperately, struggling for justice and yearning for peace,” Archbishop John Baptist Odama told more than 500 people Feb. 23 during the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington.

Catholics give mixed reviews to Obama

{mosimage}OTTAWA - U.S. President Barack Obama’s first visit to Canada struck some positive notes on the environment and on trade, say Catholic observers.

But Campaign Life Coalition focused on the one issue that was not on the agenda of the Feb. 20 working visit: abortion.

Pope's Holy Land trip takes shape

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI's planned trip to the Holy Land was slowly taking shape in February, and the tentative schedule included a number of important pastoral and interreligious events.

The proposed itinerary would take the Pope to Jordan May 8-11 for a visit to the new King Hussein Mosque in Amman, meetings with Jordanian officials, a Mass for Catholics in a soccer stadium, a stop at Jesus' Baptism site at the Jordan River and a pilgrimage to Mount Nebo, where Moses once looked out at the Promised Land.

Argentina gives Williamson 10 days to leave country

{mosimage}BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - The government of Argentina announced Feb. 19 that traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson had 10 days to leave the country or be expelled, news media reported.

The Interior Ministry said British-born Williamson "has concealed the true motive for his stay in the country" because he said he was an employee of a nongovernmental group when he was serving as rector of the seminary of the Society of St. Pius X in La Reja for the past five years.

Williamson, who recently provoked widespread indignation by asserting that the Holocaust was exaggerated and that no Jews died in Nazi gas chambers, was removed as head of the seminary in early February.

U.S. hospitals won't comply with unjust laws

{mosimage}ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The U.S. Catholic Health Association ’s board of trustees recently reaffirmed its opposition to any attempts by Congress or President Barack Obama to broaden abortion access and its commitment to keep Catholic hospitals open, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg said in a Feb. 6 blog entry.

“Idle threats about the certain closing of Catholic hospitals if certain things happen are simply that — idle,” said the bishop and CHA board member, writing about the board’s Feb. 4-6 retreat in the St. Petersburg area.

Crash victim heading to Jesuit school's scholarship event

{mosimage}WASHINGTON - Beverly Eckert, a victim of the Feb. 12 plane crash near Buffalo, N.Y., was en route to present a scholarship award in honour of her late husband at Jesuit-run Canisius High School in Buffalo.

Eckert, a Sept. 11 widow, also had planned to take part in a weekend celebration in Buffalo of what would have been her husband's 58th birthday.

Her husband, Sean Rooney, died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001. That day he spoke to his wife by cell phone up until the second tower — where he was trapped — collapsed. A vice president for risk management services at the Aon Corp., he worked on the 98th floor.