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.

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Canadian Jewish CongressAfter more than 30 years of official dialogue and 60 years of nurturing a genuine bond, Christians and Jews in Canada may be looking at a new relationship as the organization which has represented the Jewish side in the dialogue is either phased out of existence or significantly reorganized.

The Canadian Jewish Congress, the 91-year-old organization that represents the interests of most Canadian Jews, could cease to exist as early as June. That doesn’t mean Catholics won’t have a Jewish partner in the dialogue next year, but it may mean a more limited focus on Israel and related political issues, Catholic and Jewish dialogue partners told The Catholic Register.

Dr. Victor Goldbloom, who has participated in official Christian-Jewish dialogue in Canada since the first body was established in 1977 — and unofficially since he became a friend of Cardinal Paul-Emile Leger in Montreal in the 1950s — said there’s no indication a new Jewish organization would seek to replace Jewish representatives in Christian-Jewish dialogue.

Though Goldbloom fears a more narrow and partisan organization may replace the CJC, he doesn’t believe a more intense focus on lobbying and advocacy will change interfaith relationships. Goldbloom praised the Catholic side in the dialogue as “rock solid” despite the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. 
Blair HitchensTORONTO - Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens duked it out to a draw in the biggest public debate on religion ever held in Toronto Nov. 26.

At the start of the evening, 22 per cent of the sold-out crowd at Roy Thomson Hall were in favour of Blair’s proposition that religion is a force for good in the world. Fifty-seven per cent thought religion was a force for ill and 21 per cent were undecided. Before the debate, fully 75 per cent of the live audience claimed they were open to changing their mind.
Green ChurchesTORONTO - More help is being offered to churches that want to do something about climate change.

The Montreal-based Canadian Centre for Ecumenism has launched the Green Church program to advise churches on ways to reduce their carbon footprint and lower heating bills. Joined with Toronto-based Greening Sacred Spaces, Green Church will offer certification to churches that achieve a high level of environmental awareness and act on it starting in April 2011.
Rich poorTORONTO - With elections looming next year both provincially and nationally, political parties are jockeying to position themselves on poverty.

At Queen’s Park politicians made time to talk to the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition Nov. 18 and trade blows over who really cares about the poor. In Ottawa, opposition politicians ganged up on the Conservatives Nov. 17 to issue a 300-page report calling for a national poverty reduction strategy to support the half-dozen provincial plans.
Iraqi refugees to CanadaTORONTO - Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney is holding the gate open for Iraqi refugees another two years, and asking churches again for help.

By extending the program aimed at Iraqi refugees, Canada could welcome another 8,000 Iraqi refugees in 2012 and 2013. They would join approximately 12,000 Iraqis who will have come to Canada between 2009 and 2011.

Addressing the churches and other faith-based sponsorship agreement holders, Kenney told a Toronto news conference, “I’m asking you to get engaged. Do more. Raise more funds. Sponsor more refugees.”
In an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada’s bishops are calling for the the federal government to develop a national anti-poverty strategy.

CCCB“We invite Canadians today to join us in calling on our federal government to emulate the efforts of many provincial governments and develop a national anti-poverty strategy,” said the Oct. 15 letter from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Today, most new wealth is going to those who already have more than enough. Inequality is increasing in Canada. The growing rich-poor gap is threatening the economic and political power of our middle class and our treasured participatory democracy.”
Pakistan floodTORONTO - Canadian Catholics have raised more than $3 million to help flood victims in Pakistan while the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has been chosen to help deliver $2 million in extra emergency flood relief.

The $3 million raised for Development and Peace by Oct. 13 is eligible for matching funds from the federal government, transforming it into $6 million worth of aid.

Toronto parishes played a big part in the fund-raising drive, putting $463,000 in ShareLife’s emergency relief account in time for federal matching grants. Money has continued to trickle in after the Oct. 13 deadline, and ShareLife reported $466,113 in funds for Pakistan as of Oct. 18.
D & P and LifesiteTORONTO - The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace obtained a Federal Court injunction Sept. 12 to block an access to information request for the names and funding levels regarding its nearly 200 partner organizations in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.

The request was made to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) by LifeSiteNews, an online news organization that has published a series of articles over the past 18 months alleging links between Development and Peace-funded partners and pro-abortion lobbying in Mexico, Bolivia, South Africa and Nigeria. Development and Peace has denied those allegations and an investigation into five of its Mexican partners by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops cleared the Catholic aid agency of wrongdoing while also warning it to be more prudent in selecting its partners. LifeSite called that investigation “deeply flawed.”
MineAfter the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace flooded Parliament Hill with more than 153,000 postcards last spring calling for Ottawa to hold Canadian mining companies accountable for damage they do to the environment and communities in poor countries, the mining industry is countering with a campaign of its own.

The Prospectors and Developers Association, dominated by junior mining and exploration companies, is urging its members to order up bundles of postcards that mining company employees can mail in opposing Bill C-300.

The new English translation of the Mass will be ready for Canadian parishes only when the bishops have Vatican approval for all of the texts and an opportunity to put in place a program to teach people about the changes.

With the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announcing the new Mass texts will become standard south of the border beginning in Advent 2011, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has received enquiries about the Canadian timetable.