Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Michael is Associate Editor of The Catholic Register.

He is an award-winning writer and photographer and holds a Master of Arts degree from New York University.

Follow him on Twitter @MmmSwan, or click here to email him.

{mosimage}Six months after Cyclone Nargis killed approximately 100,000 people in Myanmar, Catholic aid and religious organizations are still struggling with how to help people in a corrupt police state.

“Working in a police state? Well, it certainly means certain restrictions are in place,” wrote Jocelyne Dubois, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace program officer for Asia in an e-mail from Myanmar.

{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.

{mosimage}Caught  between the push and pull of more demand for help in poor countries and financial fears squeezing donations in rich countries, the world’s Catholic aid agencies are approaching Lent this year with caution.

At a Jan. 14-15 meeting near Amsterdam of the 16 European and North American Catholic agencies that make up CIDSE (a French acronym for International Co-operation for Development and Solidarity), agency heads and bishops discussed how the financial crisis will strain finances.

{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."

{mosimage}TORONTO - Fr. Winfried Ngoyani would rather not be in Toronto. He should be home in the diocese of Mahenge in rural central Tanzania where he runs the Catholic school system.

In the two secondary schools for girls his diocese has established, Regina Mundi and St. Agnes, Ngoyani believes he can build a future for the region, prevent HIV and AIDS and preserve African and Christian values.

{mosimage}A Catholic aid worker who left Sri Lanka days before the end of his country's 26-year civil war has told The Catholic Register that between 25,000 and 35,000 Tamil civilians were killed or injured in the final days of the war.

The aid worker said Sri Lanka's military used multi-barreled rocket launchers, cluster bombs and chemical weapons in heavily populated areas held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the rebel army that once held sway in most of Sri Lanka's north and east.
{mosimage}Having Canada’s bishops investigate accusations that the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace funded abortion-promoting organizations in Mexico has been a good thing for the 42-year-old agency, said executive director Michael Casey.

“It’s not a bad thing to have this moment of reflection and re-affirmation, and to see where we’re going,” Casey told The Catholic Register. “It’s unfortunate it had to come out of such negative impulses.”

{mosimage}TORONTO - While Society of St. Pius X superior general Bishop Bernard Fellay visited Canada in June on his way to illicitly ordain two seminarians in Winona, Minn., the anti-Semitic theology of the traditionalist society continued to haunt the breakaway sect.

The Vatican II-rejectionist Society of St. Pius X has been in the news since Pope Benedict XVI on Jan. 21 remitted the 1988 ruling of excommunication on four bishops, including Fellay, ordained that year by Bishop Marcel Lefebvre. One of the four, Bishop Richard Williamson, was seen on Swedish television the same day his excommunication was lifted denying any Jews were killed in the Holocaust. The remarks came from an interview last November.

{mosimage}G8 summits may fade from the headlines faster than invisible ink, but the July 8-10 meeting in Italy is still on the minds of development agencies.

The G8 leaders pledged $19.4 billion over three years to boost agriculture and increase food aid.

Canada Foodgrains Bank executive director Jim Cornelius gives the commitment a thumbs up.

{mosimage}Pakistan’s blasphemy law should be re-examined and the government of Pakistan should be held responsible for protecting its Christian minority, the president of the Canadian Islamic Congress told The Catholic Register.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are at issue in a mob attack on Christians in the Punjabi village of Gojra July 30 to Aug. 1. Stirred up by local Muslim legal experts, or ulema, about 1,500 Muslims burned six Christians alive and shot another, killing seven in total, according to a report by the National Commission for Justice and Peace of Pakistan’s conference of Catholic bishops.