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Jean Vanier, Canadian writer, philosopher and humanitarian who died May 7, was a champion for people with intellectual disabilities and touched countless lives through his constant message of love.

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COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh – Bangladesh is bracing for a massive humanitarian crisis because of a lack of food, sanitation, medicines and even basic housing following the exodus of as many as 350,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, fleeing violence in which at least 1,000 were killed in just two weeks.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY – While the international community should continue working for peace in war-torn countries, it also must work to help migrants escaping violence and persecution as well as those caring for them, Pope Francis said. 

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Six Canadian aid workers killed in a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso last month were remembered at their respective funerals on Feb. 6 as humanitarians who touched lives and left people on two continents in mourning.

Published in Canada

VATICAN CITY - Catholic charities around the world have no doubt about the reality of a "Francis effect" on their work.
Because of the ongoing global economic crisis, most of the 164 national Catholic charities that form the Caritas Internationalis confederation report no significant increase in donations. However, the secretary-general of the Vatican-based network says Pope Francis has had a huge impact on their programs and priorities, on the number of volunteers and, especially, on their sharing.

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OTTAWA - The Chaldean Catholic Eparch of Canada says Canadian military intervention against the Islamic State is a humanitarian necessity to protect defenceless people in Iraq and Syria.

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WASHINGTON - In 1964, when Jean Vanier quietly began what would become an international network, he had "no idea that this would be a revolutionary reality ... that it would grow," he remarked joyfully.

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Knights of Columbus is providing $400,000 to relief programs sponsored by the Catholic Church in Ukraine.

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BEIRUT, Lebanon - A Vatican official who just returned from a visit to Syria said "the humanitarian situation is worse than I thought."

Published in Vatican

RICHMOND HILL, ONT. - When a humanitarian project that turned old milk bags into sleeping mats stalled, Cathie Furfaro found new partners for the initiative at the nearby parish.

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AMMAN, Jordan - Humanitarians and the people of the Gaza Strip are apprehensive about whether there will be a renewal of the truce between Israel and the militant Hamas, said a U.S. Catholic aid official.

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MEXICO CITY - The Vatican's secretary of state pledged full support for addressing the issue of child migrants streaming out of Central America in search of safety and family reunification in the United States.

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY - Instability and increasing violence in Syria have prompted Pope Benedict XVI to cancel the planned visit to the war-torn nation by a delegation of cardinals and bishops.

Instead, the pope announced Nov. 7, he has sent a smaller group to Lebanon to deliver a $1 million donation and boost the church's humanitarian response to the crisis.

The pope also appealed for dialogue to end the Syrian conflict, saying: "We have to do everything possible because one day it could be too late."

"I renew my invitation to the parties in conflict, and to all those who have the good of Syria at heart, to spare no effort in the search for peace and to pursue through dialogue the path to a just coexistence, in view of a suitable political solution of the conflict," Pope Benedict said at the end of his general audience in St. Peter's Square.

"I continue to follow with great concern the tragic situation of violent conflict in Syria, where the fighting has not ceased and each day the toll of victims rises, accompanied by the untold suffering of many civilians, especially those who have been forced to abandon their homes," he said.

He said he had hoped to send a delegation of three cardinals, three bishops and a priest to Syria during the world Synod of Bishops, which met for three weeks at the Vatican in October, to show solidarity with victims and encourage peace negotiations. The papal delegation to Damascus was to have included Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is chairman of the board of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

"Unfortunately, due to a variety of circumstances and developments, it was not possible to carry out this initiative as planned," the pope said, "and so I have decided to entrust a special mission to Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum," which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving.

Together with Cor Unum's secretary, Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, and Michel Roy, secretary-general of the Vatican-based umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies, Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Sarah was to be in Lebanon Nov. 7-10, where he was to meet with priests, religious and lay representatives of Christian churches in Syria.

"He will visit a number of refugees from that country and will chair a meeting of Catholic charitable agencies to coordinate efforts, as the Holy See has urgently requested, to provide assistance to the Syrian people, inside and outside the country," the pope said of Cardinal Sarah's mandate.

The cardinal will deliver a $1 million donation made by participants in the Oct 7-28 synod and the pope himself. The money is to provide humanitarian aid and support local churches in an effort to bring some relief to those hit by the crisis, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters.

The papal delegation's visit itself is also meant to "prompt all sides involved, as well as those who hold dear the good of Syria, to seek a just and peaceful solution to the conflict, Father Lombardi added.

Syria's civil war has left thousands dead and has displaced hundreds of thousands of people since March 2011.

Published in International