A Christian cleric clasps hands with a Muslim sheik during a rally to demonstrate unity between Muslims and Christians in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, March 11. The rally took place after recent sectarian clashes left 13 people dead. (CNS photo/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany, Reuters)Despite a church-burning and Muslim-Christian rioting that killed 13 and wounded 140 in a Christian neighbourhood in Cairo March 8, Egyptian Christians don’t believe their country is headed for a spiral of Iraq-style religious violence.

“Egypt won’t become Iraq because the nature of the Egyptian person throughout history is that he loves to live in peace,” Catholic student Fady Bushra told The Catholic Register in an e-mail from Cairo.

“We are all angry. It has nothing to do with being Christian or being Muslim. We are all Egyptians,” said Egyptian-born Germaine Raie of Holy Family Coptic Catholic Church in Toronto.

But even as they express confidence that Egyptians don’t want communal violence, Raie and Bushra are worried there could be more incidents.

D&P, Sharelife among groups raising funds for Japan disaster relief


A woman weeps after being told of the death of relatives. Japanese officials are estimating that 10,000 people may have lost their lives. (CNS photo/Reuters/Kyodo)TOKYO - As the magnitude of the disaster in Japan unfolded, religious and humanitarian aid organizations stepped up efforts to provide assistance for survivors.

Among the organizations mobilizing assistance is the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. D&P is accepting donations to help with the situation in Japan and in support of Caritas Japan, said communications officer Kelly Di Domenico in an e-mail to The Catholic Register.

"The money will go towards reconstruction projects as it is foreseen that those who are most vulnerable will need help in getting re-established," she said.

The March 11 earthquake was followed by tsunamis that wiped out entire cities and by fears of catastrophe at nuclear power stations damaged in the quake. Government officials estimated that tens of thousands of people lost their lives in the disasters.

Pope Benedict calls for prayer for victims of disaster in Japan


A woman weeps while sitting amid destruction in Natori, Japan. The area is one of the worst affected following Friday's quake. (CNS photo/Asahi Shimbun/Reuters) VATICAN CITY - Saying he, too, was horrified by the images of the death and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Pope Benedict XVI asked people to join him in praying for the victims.

"May the bereaved and injured be comforted and may the rescue workers be strengthened in their efforts to assist the courageous Japanese people," the Pope said in English March 13 after reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter's Square.

Government officials estimated that perhaps 10,000 people lost their lives after the earthquake March 11 and the tsunami it triggered.

Speaking in Italian after the Angelus, the Pope said, "The images of the tragic earthquake and the consequent tsunami in Japan have left us deeply horrified.

Japanese Church officials still assessing damage from quake, tsunamis


Houses and cars are swept out to sea in Kesennuma, Japan. (CNS photo/Reuters/Yomiuri)TOKYO — Damage from a magnitude 8.9 earthquake and ensuing tsunamis were preventing Church officials in Japan from assessing needs as tsunami warnings were issued for 50 other countries and territories.

Yasufumi Matsukuma, a staffer at the Japanese bishops' conference, told the Asian Church news agency UCA News that most staffers would remain in the offices overnight because of suspended rail service and continuous aftershocks.

"In Tokyo, telephone lines are so busy that I cannot contact diocesan chancellor offices in Japan. Aftershocks have followed. The tsunamis are terrible and we cannot get any information concerning the Church yet," he said.

Pope's book presents Jesus as reconciler, not revolutionary

Copies of Pope Benedict XVI's new book are seen in a bookstore in Rome. (CNS photo)VATICAN CITY - In his new volume on "Jesus of Nazareth," Pope Benedict XVI presents the passion and resurrection of Christ as history-changing events that answer humanity's unceasing need to be reconciled with God.

The 384-page book, titled "Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week -- From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection," was officially released March 10. The pope had worked for several years on the text, the second in his series exploring the main events of Jesus' public ministry.

The Vatican said 1.2 million copies of the book had already been published in seven languages, and that an e-book version was also planned.

Lent fasting, almsgiving, prayer bring strength, Pope says


A young woman with ashes on her forehead attends Pope Benedict XVI's general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican March 9. Ash Wednesday marks the start of the penitential season of Lent. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)VATICAN CITY - Wishing all Christians a "happy Lenten journey," Pope Benedict XVI said fasting, almsgiving and prayer are traditionally suggested for Lent because they have proven to be effective tools for conversion.

Lent is a time "to accept Christ's invitation to renew our baptismal commitments" in order to arrive at Easter in a new and stronger state, the Pope said at his weekly general audience March 9, Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent for Latin-rite Catholics.

"This Lenten journey that we are invited to follow is characterized in the Church's tradition by certain practices: fasting, almsgiving and prayer," he told the estimated 7,000 people gathered in the Vatican audience hall.

Libyan youth seek a better future

LibyaVATICAN CITY - The top Church official in Libya said the country’s current unrest is based on legitimate requests by young people for a better future.

Oil-rich Libya, unlike other north Africa hot spots Tunisia and Egypt, has the resources to satisfy those requests, Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, the apostolic vicar of Tripoli, told Vatican Radio.

“The people are asking for some things that are just. And they are fundamental requests of young people: to be able to have a house, a better salary, a job,” Martinelli said.

Beatification schedule for John Paul II released

John Paul IIVATICAN CITY - The Vatican released a three-day schedule of events for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, and warned against people selling counterfeit tickets to the beatification liturgy, which is free and open to all.

Pope Benedict XVI will preside over the beatification Mass at 10 a.m. May 1 in St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican said. Immediately after Mass, the faithful can pray before Pope John Paul’s mortal remains, which will be set in front of the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The veneration “will continue until the flow of faithful ends,” it said.

World Social Forum works with — and for — the poor

In Davos at the World Economic Forum you might get to see Bono, Bill Gates and Nicholas Sarkozy having a quiet little chat. But you won't get to see what the Mary Durran saw in Dakar, Senegal, during this year's World Social Forum.

"I witnessed an exchange yesterday (Feb. 7) between a Cambodian organization and a Senegalese organization," Durran, of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, told The Catholic Register in an e-mail.

The Cambodians were worried by how government officials and corporations were working together to drive small farmers off their land so the companies can produce crops for export.

Visitator to report Irish Church near collapse


DUBLIN - Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley reportedly will tell Pope Benedict XVI that the Catholic Church in Ireland is “on the edge” of collapse due to the fallout from clerical abuse scandals.

O’Malley is one of several senior prelates — including Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins and Ottawa’s Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J. — charged by Pope Benedict with carrying out an apostolic visitation of the Irish Catholic Church following a series of highly critical judicial reports that revealed abuse by priests and a widespread culture of cover-up for decades among Church leaders.

After protests, priests fear Egyptian youths will turn away from Church

NAIROBI, Kenya - Two priests with strong ties to Egypt fear young Egyptian Catholics will turn away from the Church because it did not back the protests that led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

"If we lose the youth in the Church, then we are done," said Fr. Makarios Isaac, an Egyptian-born priest of the archdiocese of Toronto and an associate of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers who is currently based in Kenya.

Isaac, originally ordained for the Coptic Catholic diocese of Minya, Egypt, and the former diocesan development director there, said the main Muslim and Orthodox leaders forbade participation in the protests. He said the Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria, Cardinal Antonios Naguib, told protesters to go home.