{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI advanced the sainthood causes of Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII, declaring that both had lived lives of “heroic virtues.”

In signing the decrees Dec. 19, the Pope confirmed the recommendations of Vatican officials who have studied the causes for several years. Both popes can be beatified once a miracle is attributed to their intercession.

D&P prepared in case Philippines volcano erupts

{mosimage}Filipinos will be happy to see the back of 2009. As Christmas approaches the Filipino community is bracing for another natural disaster in their home country.

The Mayon volcano, a 2,460-metre mountain in central Philippines, has been spewing lava, smoke and ash in a mild state of eruption since mid-December. Volcanologists expect the mountain to erupt more severely any day, and state authorities have called out police, soldiers and others to try to keep 47,000 evacuees in temporary shelters from sneaking back into their homes for Christmas.

After Copenhagen, churches must educate voters, say climate activists

{mosimage}In the wake of what some describe as a tepid climate agreement in Copenhagen, Denmark, Catholic activists say church groups must focus on educating voters and lawmakers about climate science and policy.

Faith, economics and the environment are interconnected, Kathy McNeely of the Maryknoll Global Concerns Office , who was in Copenhagen for the first week of the UN Climate Change Conference , told Catholic News Service.

Irish bishop resigns over his handling of clerical sexual abuse 

{mosimage}DUBLIN, Ireland  - Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick has resigned after weeks of pressure over his handling of clerical sexual abuse when he served in the Dublin archdiocese.

Speaking Dec. 17 after the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted his resignation, Murray told a large congregation in St. John's Cathedral in Limerick, "I humbly apologize once again to all who were abused as little children."

G20 interfaith summit gains steam

{mosimage}When the 2010 G8 meeting in Huntsville, Ont., morphed into a G20 meeting in Toronto, organizers of the 2010 World Religious Summit were unfazed.

“We saw this coming,” said Canadian Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton. “So we took this into consideration in the planning.”

Diplomatic surge needed for Afghanistan, not military

{mosimage}A “diplomatic surge,”  including talks with willing Taliban leaders, should be the next step in Canada’s mission to Afghanistan, the majority of Canadian churches have told Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The governing council of the Canadian Council of Churches sent a letter and detailed brief to the Prime Minister Dec. 10 urging the government to invest heavily in diplomacy before Canada begins withdrawing troops in 2011.

Tony Blair Foundation teams up with McGill University

{mosimage}McGill University has become the first Canadian academic institute, and the fourth university worldwide, to partner with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faith and Globalization Initiative and expand its research on religious issues.

The foundation was launched by former British Prime Minister Blair in May 2008 to promote respect and understanding about the world’s major religions and show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world. 

Peace activist sees hope for Iraqi Christians

{mosimage}TORONTO - An Iraqi peace campaigner, on tour after receiving a Canadian human rights award, claims Christian Iraqi refugees — most of them stuck in Syria and Jordan — could safely return home to live in peace in Iraq.

“Let’s be honest. To get accepted here as a refugee, I have to talk about violence,” Ibrahim Ismaeel, chair of the board of directors of the Iraqi non-violence network La’Onf , told The Catholic Register.

Religious observers find conflict surfaces early at climate conference 

{mosimage}WASHINGTON - The underlying tension between the world's largest producers of greenhouse gases and small countries quickly surfaced on the first day of the UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In smaller gatherings after Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen opened the conference with the remark that "a deal is within our reach," the Alliance of Small Island States said it would accept nothing less than a legally binding pact to limit greenhouse gases. A much less demanding but politically appealing agreement would do little to protect its countries from rising sea levels, said the alliance, a coalition of 42 small island nations, low-lying coastal countries and territories.

Vatican delegation to join UN climate change conference 

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - The Vatican's delegation to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen , Denmark, was being headed by an experienced diplomat and included experts on the environment.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations, was to lead the five-person Vatican delegation at the Copenhagen conference, Vatican Radio reported. Migliore is scheduled to speak to the UN during the Dec. 7-18 conference.

Copenhagen climate change talks must consider effect on poor

{mosimage}World leaders and negotiators participating in the UN Climate Change Conference must remember that the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people will suffer most from environmental factors, church activists say.

“This is a pivotal point for all people of faith and good will,” said Cliona Sharkey, policy and advocacy officer for CIDSE , an international network of Catholic development agencies. “We simply cannot accept the continuation of a situation that is impacting on the people who have contributed least to the problem.”