{mosimage}WASHINGTON - In the end, the successful battle to include strict language prohibiting funding for abortions, led by pro-life congressional Democrats with the strong support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is what made the difference in the Nov. 7 House vote to pass a sweeping health care reform bill.

In a rare Saturday night vote, the House approved the Affordable Health Care for America Act 220-215, moving the legislation on to the Senate, which was expected to take up debate on its own health care bill later in November.

El Salvador martyrs' struggle lives on

{mosimage}A generation ago the martyrs of El Salvador galvanized Catholics and today Canadian Catholics claim those martyrs as part of their spiritual heritage.

On Nov. 16 the church marks the 20th anniversary of the murder of six Jesuits who lived and taught at the University of Central America in San Salvador. They were killed along with their housekeeper and her daughter because they argued that the vast gulf between rich and poor in El Salvador, a country just slightly larger than the Greater Toronto Area, was feeding the civil war that had by then killed more than 70,000.

Next year will be the 30th anniversary for martyrs who first brought world attention on El Salvador’s ugly war. March 24 is the anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s 1980 assassination. Romero was killed by an army death squad a day after he broadcast a sermon calling on police and soldiers not to carry out orders that amounted to repression and violations of human rights. Dec. 2 it will be 30 years since four American church women — three Catholic nuns and a laywoman who worked in poor villages in the Salvadoran countryside — were raped and murdered near the San Salvador airport.

El Salvador’s war officially ended in 1992, and the Cold War logic that justified U.S. military aid propping up a corrupt, anticommunist government is fast-fading history. But the memory of those martyrs still matters, said Mary Jo Leddy, one of the founders of Romero House for refugees in Toronto.

Africa refugee processing inadequate

{mosimage}Canadian visa officials in Accra, Ghana, have informed the Office of Refugees of the Archdiocese of Toronto it will probably take more than two years to unite a 14-year-old boy with his family in Toronto.

The extreme delay is typical of a Canadian refugee system that simply isn’t doing its job in sub-Saharan Africa, said ORAT executive director Martin Mark.

“It’s a shame,” Mark said. “Basically, it’s a lack of accountability.”

German cardinal stresses Catholic role in toppling Berlin Wall 

{mosimage}COLOGNE, Germany  - As Europe marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a German cardinal said ceremonies are ignoring the role played by the Catholic Church in re-uniting Germany.

Germans are commemorating the 1989 fall of the wall, which divided West Germany from the communist-ruled East Germany for 28 years. The Nov. 9 anniversary was to include a "Festival of Freedom" in Berlin, during which 1,000 giant foam dominos will be toppled along the route of the wall.

Many questions to be answered in Catholic-Anglican union

{mosimage}Bringing a small fraction of Anglicans into the Catholic Church will not advance the cause of full communion between Catholics and the larger Anglican Communion of 77 million believers worldwide, according to Catholic and Anglican theologians with experience in ecumenical dialogue.

Meanwhile the dissident, disaffected Anglicans who are being invited to enter the Catholic Church are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

African synod closes with calls for a fairer global order 

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY  - After three weeks of discussion and strategizing, the Synod of Bishops for Africa ended with calls for spiritual conversion and social reforms on the African continent.

The more than 200 participating bishops published a message to the world Oct. 23, appealing for a fairer global order based on Gospel values and telling corrupt Catholic politicians in Africa to "repent or resign" in the name of the common good.

Structure established to unite Anglicans with Roman Catholic Church

{mosimage}Pope Benedict XVI has established a special structure for Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while preserving aspects of their Anglican spiritual and liturgical heritage, said Cardinal William Levada.

The cardinal, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said a new apostolic constitution would establish “personal ordinariates” — similar to dioceses — to oversee the pastoral care of those who want to bring elements of their Anglican identity into the Catholic Church with them.

African bishops criticize aid with strings attached as 'cultural imperialism' 

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Development aid that is tied to promoting abortion, contraception and cutbacks in social and educational programs represents a form of "cultural imperialism" from the West that must end, said some African bishops.

Nations and institutions, especially in the West, must stop trying to impose on Africa policies and ideas that fail to respect human dignity and life, said Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr of Dakar, Senegal. These foreign concepts represent "a kind of cultural imperialism," he said.

Obama's Nobel Prize good news at Vatican

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - U.S. President Barack Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was met with high hopes from the Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told journalists Oct. 9 that the news "was greeted with appreciation at the Vatican in light of the president's demonstrated commitment to promoting peace on an international level and, in particular, in recently promoting nuclear disarmament."

Partisan politics undermining U.S. health care reform

{mosimage}TORONTO - American Catholics who care about abortion and end-of-life issues are being cynically used in the bitter health care debate in the United States, one of the U.S.’s leading experts on Catholic health care has told The Catholic Register.

“It has partly to do with just political polarization between Democrats and Republicans in this country in the wake of the election of President (Barack) Obama,” said Dominican Father Charles Bouchard, vice president of theological education at Ascension Health in St. Louis.

Canadian aid flows to Pacific nations

{mosimage}TORONTO - It’s been a harrowing week for Faye Arellano as she worried about relatives in the Philippines hit by Typhoon Ketsana, the “Katrina of the Philippines.”

Close to 300 people died in and around Manila from the typhoon which struck on Sept. 26.

It dumped an average month’s worth of rain in one day in Greater Manila and displaced about half a million people. A week later, at least 22 people were killed by tropical storm Parma.