{mosimage}TORONTO - It was a road trip of a lifetime for Newman Centre parishioner Monique Ferdinand.

The 26-year-old consultant made the 10-hour drive to Washington, D.C., with two friends for the inauguration of the United States’ first African-American president, Barack Obama, Jan. 20.

New U.S. president invokes religious heritage

{mosimage}WASHINGTON - The United States' multiple religious traditions are "a strength, not a weakness," said President Barack Obama Jan. 20 in his inaugural address.

"Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness," said the nation's 44th president after he was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts, one of five Catholics on the Supreme Court.

Bishops take the side of peace

{mosimage}Though the war was raging next door, European and North American bishops on an annual pilgrimage to visit Palestinian Christians in early January had no interest in deciding who was right and who was wrong in the war in Gaza, Archbishop James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian Conference of Bishops, said on his return to Canada.

"I'm not a politician and that's not why we went," Weisgerber said. "But it seems that the leadership on both sides is really not strong enough to mobilize public opinion to agree to peace."

Cardinal under fire for Gaza comments

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - The Gaza Strip increasingly is looking like “a big concentration camp” while egoism, hatred, poverty and injustice are fueling the continual slaughter in the Holy Land, said a top Vatican official.

“We are seeing a continual massacre in the Holy Land where the overwhelming majority has nothing to do with the conflict, but it is paying for the hatred of a few with their lives,” said Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

U.S. bishops pledge to work with Obama

{mosimage}WASHINGTON - The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has pledged that he and his fellow prelates will work with the incoming administration of Barack Obama and the 111th Congress to "advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially the vulnerable and poor."

In a Jan. 13 letter to the president-elect, Chicago Cardinal Francis George offered a broad outline of policy priorities that concern the U.S. bishops, ranging from economic recovery that covers all segments of society to protecting the lives of the "most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family," especially unborn children. A corresponding letter was sent to Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and each member of Congress.

Aid agencies worry about civilians caught in Israeli-Hamas crossfire

{mosimage}OTTAWA - Catholic aid agencies have raised concerns about Gaza’s civilian population as war rages between Israel and Hamas.

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and Catholic Near East Welfare Association Canada have echoed Pope Benedict XVI’s call for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire.

Vatican approaches Obama with cautious optimism

{mosimage}ROME - The Vatican is concerned about U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's positions on the family and on the unborn, but it looks forward with hope to his presidency fostering more attention to the poor and easing violence around the globe, said retired Cardinal Pio Laghi.

As Obama prepares for his inauguration on Jan. 20, Vatican observers are watching carefully to see which way his administration will go on issues close to the heart of Christians.

Pope renews appeal for peace in Gaza

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - As fighting continued in the Gaza Strip, Pope Benedict XVI urged Israelis and Palestinians to end the violent, armed clashes and start peace talks.

“Hatred and the rejection of dialogue bring nothing but war,” he said after reciting the Angelus Jan. 6 with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Eradicate unjust systems to ensure peace


{mosimage}VATICAN CITY  - Building peace and eradicating poverty demand an overhaul of shortsighted financial policies and unjust economic and social structures, Pope Benedict XVI said.

In his annual message for the Jan. 1 celebration of the World Day of Peace, the Pope said “peace can be built only if everyone is assured the possibility of reasonable growth: Sooner or later, the distortions produced by unjust systems have to be paid for by everyone.”

The world of finance and commerce need global governance and a new ethical approach that can ensure that investments and development truly contribute to the common good and peace in the world, he said.

Catholic agencies aid U.S. unemployed

{mosimage}WASHINGTON - More Americans are losing jobs, and Catholic agencies are trying their best to tide them over until they find new work.

The United States shed 533,000 jobs in November, the most in any single month in 34 years. The national unemployment rate climbed to 6.7 per cent in December, a 15-year high, up from 6.5 per cent in October.

South African bishops say Mugabe must go

{mosimage}CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe must be forced to step down, said the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference.

"It is now time to isolate Mugabe completely and to remove all forms of moral, material or tacit support for him and his party," the conference said in a Dec. 18 statement issued by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, conference spokesman.