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.

South African Church leaders work to stem threatened xenophobic attacks after World Cup

South Africa protestersCAPE TOWN, South Africa - While human rights activists express fears that xenophobic attacks will erupt in South Africa after the soccer World Cup, Church leaders are taking action to see that this does not happen.

A delegation of religious leaders, led by Johannesburg Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, raised concerns about the possibility in a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma.

Pope deplores Belgian Church raid

Belgium policeVATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI joined a chorus of criticism of a raid on Belgian Church headquarters by police seeking evidence of alleged clergy sexual abuse.

In a June 27 letter of solidarity to Belgian bishops, he called the blitz on the Mechelen-Brussels archdiocese “surprising and deplorable” for the heavy-handed way it was carried out. However, the Pope also reiterated his position that accusations of abuse of minors within the Catholic Church should be pursued by civil as well as Church authorities.

G8 maternal health promises don't go far enough, aid groups say

maternal healthA $7.3 billion pledge — $5.0 billion from G8 countries and another $2.3 billion from foundations and non-G8 countries — is not enough to stop millions of needless deaths among pregnant women and children under five, and not enough for the G8 countries to say they've lived up to their responsibilities, say Catholic aid groups.

"We're disappointed with the G8 leaders," said Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace executive director Michael Casey.

Hand of God at the World Cup as Catholic nations well represented

infant Jesus footballMADRID - On June 11, Spanish soccer fans gathered at Blessed Manuel Domingo Sol Catholic Church in Madrid to watch host nation South Africa play Mexico in the first game of the FIFA World Cup.

The church’s pastor, Fr. Esteban Diaz, says that bringing parishioners together for the games promotes good will and friendly relationships in his community. On a larger scale, he believes the quadrennial event is an opportunity to fight for peace.

Early devotions to apostles unearthed in Rome

ROME - In the basement of an Italian insurance company’s modern office building, Vatican archeologists, armed with lasers, discovered important historical evidence about the development of Christian devotion to the apostles.

At Rome’s Catacombs of St. Thecla, in the burial chamber of a Roman noblewoman, they have discovered what they said are the oldest existing paintings of Sts. Peter, Paul, Andrew and John.

Technicians working for the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology discovered the painting of St. Paul in June 2009 just as the Year of St. Paul was ending.

Barbara Mazzei, who was in charge of the restoration work, said June 22 that she and her team members knew there were more images under the crust of calcium carbonate, but excitement over the discovery of St. Paul in the year dedicated to him led them to announce the discovery even before the rest of the work was completed.

Presenting the complete restoration of the burial chamber to reporters a year later, Msgr. Giovanni Carru said that the catacombs “are an eloquent witness of Christianity in its origins.”

catacombsInto the fourth century, Christians in Italy tried to bury their dead near the tomb of a martyr. The walls of the tombs of the wealthy were decorated with Christian symbols, biblical scenes and references to the martyr.

At the Catacombs of St. Thecla, the noblewoman’s burial chamber — now referred to as the Cubicle of the Apostles — dates from late in the fourth century. The arch over the vestibule features a fresco of a group of figures the Vatican experts described as “The College of the Apostles.” The ceiling of the burial chamber itself features the most typical icon found in the catacombs, Christ the Good Shepherd, but the four corners of the ceiling are decorated with medallions featuring the four apostles, said Mazzei.