{mosimage}WASHINGTON  - As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops quietly expressed disappointment, some Catholic groups reacted with enthusiasm to the passage of health reform legislation in Congress and the pending presidential executive order on taxpayer-funded abortion.

The House approved the Senate-passed health reform bill by a 219-212 vote late March 21, then voted 220-211 in favour of a package of legislative fixes which had to go to the Senate for approval.

Pope apologizes to Irish abuse victims, orders Vatican investigation

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - In a letter to Irish Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI personally apologized to victims of priestly sexual abuse and announced new steps to heal the wounds of the scandal, including a Vatican investigation and a year of penitential reparation.

"You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated," he told victims in his letter, released March 20 at the Vatican.

Iraqi Christians still can't go home

{mosimage}Elections in Iraq that some claim have opened the way for a more peaceful and democratic state haven’t overcome the divisions or the sectarian violence that is generating hundreds of thousands of refugees, said an Iraqi Dominican Sister.

Sr. Aman Miriam of Mosul, Iraq — currently staying with the Adrian Dominican community in Michigan — told The Catholic Register days after 62 per cent of eligible Iraqis voted in national elections March 7 that the thousands of Iraqi Christians living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria can’t return home and fear terrorist attacks and kidnapping if they do return.

Vatican efforts to curb abuse defended

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Amid new disclosures of priestly sex abuse cases in Europe, including one in the German archdiocese formerly headed by Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican strongly defended the church’s response to the crisis and said the Pope has led the effort to root out “filth” in the church.

The Vatican statements came in the wake of hundreds of new sex abuse allegations against priests and other church personnel that have surfaced in recent weeks in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland.

Irish cardinal defends actions in handling abusive priest

{mosimage}DUBLIN, Ireland - Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, chairman of the Irish bishops’ conference, insisted he will not resign after it was revealed that he failed to report allegations of child abuse by a priest to the police in 1975.

Speaking with reporters March 14, Brady said it was not his responsibility at the time to report the allegations involving Norbertine Father Brendan Smyth to the police.

Anglicans to seek union with Catholic Church

{mosimage}OTTAWA - Anglican groups around the world are responding to Pope Benedict XVI’s offer to come into communion with the Catholic Church, with Canadian groups expected to make similar requests soon.

Anglican Church in America (ACA) bishops and Anglican Use Roman Catholic parish representatives announced March 3 they have jointly requested the establishment of a Personal Ordinariate in the United States. Requests have been sent from the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere.

Church responding decisively to new sex abuse reports, official says

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - The religious orders and bishops' conferences dealing with cases of clerical sexual abuse of children in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are acting quickly, decisively and with transparency to uncover the truth and assist the victims, said the Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said March 9 that the religious orders and bishops' conferences not only "have proven their commitment to transparency, in a certain sense they have accelerated the uncovering of the problem by asking victims to come forward even when it involved cases from many years ago." The correct way to proceed, he said, is to recognize what happened and concretely demonstrate concern for the victims and the consequences the abuse has had on them.

Nigerian archbishop says conflict is economic, cultural, not religious

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Cultural, economic and tribal differences are feeding the bloody conflict between Nigerian farmers and herders that has left hundreds of people dead, an archbishop from the African country said.

The violence is not inspired by religious differences, even though the ethnic Berom farmers are Christian and the ethnic Fulani herders are Muslim, Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja told Vatican Radio in a telephone interview March 8.

Caritas struggles to reach rural Chileans after earthquake

{mosimage}LIMA, Peru - While media attention focuses on looting and relief efforts in Concepcion, the largest city near the epicenter of a magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile Feb. 27, Catholic Church workers are struggling to reach quake victims in rural areas.

“We are receiving funds to help the poorest people, who are in the countryside,” Fr. Waldo Alfaro, head of the Caritas Chile office in Linares, said March 1 in a telephone interview. Linares is in the Maule region, where most of the quake deaths occurred.

Pope prays for Chile quake victims, Catholics pitch in to help

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI prayed for the victims of the massive earthquake in Chile and pledged the assistance of Catholic relief organizations.

The Pope made the remarks at his noon blessing Feb. 28, the day after a magnitude 8.8 quake struck the South American country, triggering giant waves and leaving at least 700 dead.

"My thoughts are with Chile and with the populations stricken by the earthquake, which caused great loss of life and terrible damage," the Pope said from his apartment window above St. Peter's Square.

Irish abuse victims express anger with Pope

{mosimage}DUBLIN, Ireland - Victims of clerical child sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin said they are close to despair because the church will not take full responsibility for covering up the abuse.

Clergy abuse survivors met with Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Feb. 19 to discuss the outcome of the meeting of Irish bishops with Pope Benedict XVI and senior officials from the Roman Curia. The Feb. 15-16 Vatican meeting reviewed a November report by an independent commission that investigated how the archdiocese handled complaints of clerical child sexual abuse between 1975 and 2004. The commission “found that the church deliberately covered up allegations of child abuse, but the only senior person who seems to accept that is Archbishop Martin,” Maeve Lewis, director of the One in Four abuse survivors’ group, told Catholic News Service.