VATICAN CITY - The new head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, told his fellow Chaldean bishops and Vatican officials, "We want to follow the example of our martyrs who gave their lives for Christ."

Published in International

Archdiocese of Toronto targets community colleges

Published in Education

Downtown Toronto campus opens multi-faith room

Published in Education

Each year thousands of high school students seek the next step in their educational journey — and there are plenty of options.

Published in Education

VATICAN CITY - The sick, their caregivers and any Catholic who prays for or lovingly assists someone who is ill can gain an indulgence with prayers and service on or around the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which the Catholic Church marks as World Day of the Sick.

Published in International

TORONTO - The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) has launched a public awareness campaign to promote and help ensure the preservation of publically funded Catholic education.

Published in Education

VATICAN CITY - The universal church needs Catholics in the Americas who are joyful missionaries

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY - When the Catholic Church affirms the importance of how all the faithful understand matters of faith and morals, it is not saying Catholic beliefs are open to a popular vote, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Published in Vatican

WASHINIGTON - Dave Brubeck, the influential and prolific pianist whose composition "Take Five" became a standard in the annals of jazz, died Dec. 5 at age 91, one day before his 92nd birthday.

Published in Music News

KOKRAJHAR, India (CNS) -- Besides her family, the most valuable things Majoni Bibi has these days are a few clothes, medicated mosquito nets, cooking utensils, water storage buckets and sleeping mats.

Bibi, a Muslim refugee forced with her family from their home as fighting erupted in July between tribal Bodos and Muslim settlers in Assam state, praised Catholic relief workers for the donations as her family continues to live in a camp for internally displaced people.

"We are very happy the Christians have helped in a big way. But for them, our life would have been miserable," said Bibi as she held her infant, who was born the camp at Basagaon.

Bibi is among hundreds of thousands of people displaced by months of ethnic clashes. She told Catholic News Service that had it not been for Catholic-run charities and the efforts of the Missionaries of Charity sisters, she and her family would have little.
"These sisters cared for us and (church workers) gave valuable and useful things," said Bibi, pointing to Sister Jacoba, superior of the Missionaries of Charity convent in nearby Bongaigaon.

Church workers have visited the camp and several others in the region, providing food and a variety of services and supplies.
The fighting has left more than 90 people dead and about 500,000 homeless in Kokrajhar region. More than 200,000 refugees -- the majority of them Muslims -- languish in 130 relief camps scattered across four districts.

Several Muslim refugees shared their appreciation for the workers' dedicated service in the camps in the Bodo heartland.

"The only people who came out to help us were the Christians," said Jahanara Begum, living in a riverbed camp in Basagaon.
Begum told the church workers that she had lost thousands of pounds of raw rice she had stocked in her home for sale when she, her husband and five children fled Dewalguri, a village attacked July 23.

"The church workers have shown real love for us and visited the camps regularly and attended to our people," Begum said.

Father David Napoleon, director of the Bongaigaon Diocese's social service program, said he has coordinated his work with Catholic Relief Services and Caritas India. More than two dozen emergency workers, including medical teams from St. Augustine Hospital in Bongaigaon joined the Missionaries of Charity sisters in visiting the camps.

"But it has not been easy. Nearly 15,000 Christians among the Bodos have also become homeless and some of our people have been strongly objecting to reaching out to the Muslim refugees," he said.

"But we told them that this was a humanitarian crisis and as true Christians, we have the duty to help all those in need," he added.
Harun Rashid Mondal, coordinator of a relief committee distributing rice and other food to refugee families, told CNS that "whatever may be the international talk of conflict between Muslims and Christians, here Christians are helping us like real brothers."

"The care and attention the Christians have shown to our people has helped change their attitude to the Christians. Real friends are those who help the people in need. The sisters have shown us what is real love," Mondal, a Muslim, said of the Missionaries of Charity who had helped bathe refugee children.

The anxiety of the Bodo community over Christians reaching out to Muslims was evident during a visit to Bodo relief camps in the town of Kokrajhar.

"My husband was stabbed (to death) and how can we can go back and live in the same place?" asked Korida Sanhala of Fakiragram village, who was at the Bodo camp.

"Sister, why do you still go to the camps of those (Muslim) people?" posed another Bodo woman to Missionaries of Charity Sister Leo Therese, even as men of the Bodo community rejected the plea of government officials to return the refugees to their village.

"They should not be helped," a young Bodo refugee woman reminded another nun when the church workers reached the Catholic relief camp at Kailo Mailo, more than 60 miles from Basagaon.

"Now our main focus is on youth-centered programs to deal positively with their trauma and anger and foster healthy interpersonal relationship," said Kaplianlal Thangluai, program officer for CRS in northeast India.

The program is facilitated by CRS-trained volunteers selected from among the refugees and residents of the host villages.

"We are also running a child-friendly space for children in the relief camps, as the children do not go to school," Thangluai added.

Published in International

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - The newly appointed leader of the world’s Anglicans is a former oil executive who said his spiritual director was a Catholic monk.

Bishop Justin Welby of Durham, who will become the new archbishop of Canterbury, did not name the monk, but told a Nov. 9 news conference at London’s Lambeth Palace that he was influenced by both Benedictine and Ignatian spirituality. He also told reporters that he would be voting in favour of the ordination of women as bishops when the General Synod will decide the matter at a two-day meeting beginning Nov. 19.

Welby’s appointment as the primate of England and the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion was announced Nov. 9 following selection by the Crown Nominations Commission and approval of Queen Elizabeth II, the supreme governor of the Church of England. The 56-year-old will be enthroned as the 105th archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral March 21 in succession to Archbishop Rowan Williams, who leaves the post in December.

Welby has been described as an Anglican evangelical with sympathy for the Catholic tradition. A Nov. 9 press release by the Church of England said he has “frequently said that the Roman Catholic approach to Christian social teaching, beginning with the encyclical of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, up to Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas Veritate, has greatly influenced his social thinking.”

Welby told the Lambeth press conference he knew the Church of England was “facing very hard issues.” 

“In 10 days or so the General Synod will vote on the ordination of women as bishops, and I will be voting in favour and join my voice in urging the synod to go forward with this change,” he said.

The archbishop-designate also noted that the Anglican Communion was divided over issues of sexuality but said that it would be wrong to tolerate “any form of homophobia in any part of the church.”

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Sacred music can bolster people's faith and help lapsed Catholics rediscover the beauty of God, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Sacred music can, above all, promote the faith, and, what's more, cooperate in the new evangelization," he told participants attending a conference and pilgrimage sponsored by the Italian St. Cecilia Association. St. Cecilia, whose feast day is Nov. 22, is traditionally honored as the patron saint of musical performers.

"Music and singing that are done well can help (people) receive the word of God and be moved in a positive way," the pope said in his address Nov. 10.

Many people, including St. Augustine, have found themselves attracted to God because of some profound experience prompted by the beauty of liturgical music and sacred song, he said.

In the church's missionary outreach, he said, it urges Catholics to recognize, respect and promote the musical traditions of the local people.

Traditionally Christian countries, like Italy, have a rich heritage of sacred music which can help lapsed Catholics rediscover God and be drawn again to the Christian message and the mystery of faith, he said.

Because of their important role in new evangelization, he urged church musicians to dedicate themselves "to improving the quality of liturgical song, without being afraid of reviving or emphasizing the great musical tradition of the church, which has two of its highest expressions in Gregorian and polyphony."

"Show how the church may be the place in which beauty feels at home," he said.

"Sacred song united to the words, form a necessary and integral part of the solemn liturgy," he said, quoting from the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy "Sacrosanctum Concilium."

The reason why sacred music is "necessary and integral," Pope Benedict said, isn't simply for aesthetic purposes, but because sacred song "cooperates in nourishing and expressing the faith and, therefore, in glorifying God and sanctifying the faithful."

Sacred music "is not an accessory or embellishment of the liturgy, but is the liturgy itself."

The pope thanked the men and women musicians and singers for helping the faithful "praise God and make his word sink deep in their hearts."

That evening, in the Sistine Chapel, the pope attended a concert with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who was the director of the Regensburg Boys Choir for decades.

They listened to music from a Mass composed by Msgr. Ratzinger, as well as to pieces by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Msgr. Massimo Palombella -- the director of the Sistine Chapel Choir -- and Colin Mawby, a contemporary British composer who has served as director of music at Westminster Cathedral.

Published in Music News

WINDSOR, ONT. - Much has changed since the controversial 1960 campaign when John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, ran for the American presidency.

For starters, the United States has become both more secular and more tolerant in accepting non-Protestant religious groups, such as Roman Catholics. At the same time, the country has become more politically partisan and seen religion take on a greater role in electoral politics than it did 50 years ago, according to Dr. David Campbell, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame.

“Kennedy faced at least a potential stained glass ceiling,” said Campbell, an expert on religion, politics and civic engagement. The native of Medicine Hat, Alta. was speaking at Windsor’s Assumption University as part of a series examining the current presidential campaign.

He said that in becoming America’s first Catholic president, Kennedy overcame the obstacle of his religion after a historic speech in which he declared “Catholicism will not guide me” in policy decisions.

Today, a Catholic candidate such as John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race, or vice-president Joe Biden, might be questioned because they aren’t “Catholic enough” on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Catholics are now fully accepted in the political mainstream. But according to public polling, that’s not the case for candidates from all other religions, including Buddhists, Muslims and Mormons. Fifty-two years after Kennedy, Mitt Romney is attempting to become America’s first Mormon president.

Campbell said that “almost everyone” has a family relation, friend or neighbour who is Catholic, Protestant or Jewish, and recognizes them as “good people.” But that’s not the case for smaller faith groups. For Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, “that’s a problem.”

Campbell said that while Jews, for example, make up about the same proportion of the population as Mormons, they have integrated into society over the years by “building bridges” to other faiths. That isn’t the case with Mormonism, which Campbell says has a huge degree of internal “bonding” or “sticking together.”

Although Mormonism might not be fully tolerated, Campbell said religion generally plays a more important role in American politics, particularly among the political right.

“Religion has become a very powerful force shaping how Americans vote,” he said.

So, Campbell said, Romney has to walk a fine line between showing he fits into mainstream America without alienating the Republican base, which includes many Evangelicals.

Campbell said Romney has echoed Kennedy by emphatically declaring that his church will not “exert influence on presidential decisions.” In the second presidential debate Romney affirmed his belief in Jesus Christ and implied that voter acceptance of his faith will be a “test of our tolerance.”

The presidential campaign is “Romney’s moment,” Campbell said. If the Republican is elected, his Morman faith, like Catholicism 50 years ago, could start to be recognized as a more conventional religion.

Published in International

A recent study has reported that Catholic school graduates view the role of faith in the public square similarly to graduates of public schools.

Cardus, a Christian think tank that focuses on bringing faith into public life, conducted the study, called “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.” It covers grads from schools in all provinces except Quebec, which the report covers separately.

The study compares graduates now ages 24 to 39 from government-run public schools with grads in the same age group from various kinds of schools: Protestant private schools, non-religious private schools, religious home schools, Catholic separate schools (government-funded), and Catholic independent schools (private with some government subsidies). Catholic schools in B.C. are independent.

Graduates were compared on a wide range of topics in addition to religion. However the study gives little information about what their actual responses were; it just reports how other grads compared to grads from public schools.

In total, 1,868 graduates were surveyed. In addition, the results were controlled for family socioeconomic and religious background.

The study revealed some interesting facts about faith in the public square.

“What struck me the most was that Catholic schools were the same as public schools in many respects,” said Ray Pennings, the study’s project leader and the director of research at Cardus.

The study showed grads from both kinds of Catholic schools were less involved in volunteering their time with their congregations than grads from Protestant schools, religious home schools and public schools. But they scored the same as public-school grads on their views on the importance of religion in public life.

“You would have expected to find some spiritual differences, but they weren’t there (for Catholic grads),” Pennings said, “which is distinct from the Protestant schools, where we were getting measurable differences.”

Pennings added graduates from Protestant schools said their faith made an impact on their cultural engagement.

They gave more time to their church than Catholics, but were less political. Catholic-independent-school grads volunteered more than Catholic-separate-school and public-school grads outside their congregation, but were less politically engaged.

“I am surprised by the results,” said Doug Lauson, superintendent of the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA). He said he would have expected religious training provided by schools would have an effect on how students lived their faith after graduation.

But Lauson noted that the sample size for Catholic-independent-school grads was low.

“Only 23 were sampled from the whole of B.C., and I don’t know how many of those were from our diocese.”

However, he added, secularization in society is a factor not only for Catholic schools but for Protestant ones as well.

He said CISVA is looking at ways to address this issue with students.

“Young people are in a bit of a difficult situation, because in school they learn one set of values, and then they go to the shopping mall and they’re surrounded by a different set of values,” he said.

“Our graduates should be aware of the world out there and should be prepared to defend their faith in a world that is very secular, and where the practise of your faith is allowed but frowned upon.”

With regard to employment, the study showed grads from both types of Catholic schools were similar to public-school grads. All three groups obtained managerial occupations (managerial professionals, lawyers, scientists, architects and university teachers) at the same rate.

With regard to how workplaces are run, the three groups held the same views on ethics and efficiency.

Catholic independent grads scored well in post-secondary education. They came in second to non-religious independent grads in total years of education, but were more likely than any other grad in the study to have a university degree. They also scored the highest in obtaining masters degrees.

Lauson said CISVA schools always aim to prepare students for university.

“We general ly provide education to students to enter university if they choose to,” he said. “Our graduates are required to obtain more credits because we offer more subjects than government-run schools.”

He also said CISVA focuses on developing “skill sets” for students to learn for the 21st century. The Ministry of Education recently recognized them for their unique teaching methods.

The complete Cardus survey is at

Published in Youth Speak News

THORNHILL, ONT. - A financial analyst turned priest, Fr. Mario Salvadori is marketing an unorthodox and unapologetic formula of evangelization — and youth are flocking to it.

Salvadori, the only priest at Thornhill’s St. Joseph the Worker parish, jokes that he has “more degrees than a thermometer.” He has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, a master’s degree in theology and a master’s in business administration. Before he was a priest, Salvadori was a businessman. In many ways, he still is.

“I used to be able to sell a glass of water to a drowning man,” he said. “Now I sell Jesus Christ.”

His congregation in this Toronto suburb seems to be buying it.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Vlad Mamaradlo, the lay minister Salvadori hired to work with youth. Mamaradlo said every Mass is standing room only. “Even the foyer is full.”

And in the five years since Salvadori joined the parish, he’s paid off a $1.3-million renovation and $600,000 more off the mortgage.

Salvadori’s success stems from his approach to Mass. For him, evangelization is no different than marketing. “It’s just a different word,” he said. He and Mamaradlo look at Catholicism as a product they are selling. Something that, they say, the Church has failed to sell.

“In society, people are given options,” Mamaradlo said, “so let’s give them options.”

What Salvadori has given them is a refreshing twist on the traditional Mass. When he ordered the church renovation back in 2009, he made sure it would accommodate his style for delivering just that.

“We’re competing against 60-inch TVs, iPods and every other stimulation that’s out there,” Mamaradlo said.

So, Salvadori brought the technology to Mass. Every homily, his laptop is plugged into the pulpit, at the ready to bring up a clip on the two huge screens on either side of him.

He invites guest speakers and tackles current and controversial topics that many priests tend to shy away from — topics that weigh heavily on everyday life. One homily he delivered in May included a clip of U.S. President Barack Obama speaking about gay marriage. That homily has collected more than 300 views on YouTube as have some of his other videos posted on the site.

There are other options too, opportunities to connect with the congregation outside the now lessthan-traditional construct of Mass. There are trips downtown to feed the homeless, youth groups, parish events, even retreats in the United States that young people can sign up for.

Mamaradlo’s role as a paid youth minister is rare in Canada. It is part of a model Salvadori discovered in the United States. Seventeen other people were interviewed, flying in from places like Montreal and Philadelphia, in hopes of landing the position.

In fact, Salvadori runs the entire parish based on the U.S. model. He was first exposed to it 18 years ago when he attended a conference in Steubenville, Ohio.
“The first thing that stunned me was that they used video,” he said. “I remember thinking ‘Wow, you can do this in the Catholic Church?’ ”

When Salvadori came to St. Joseph with plans to use the technology, he was met with that same sense of uncertainty. Then, only days after ordering the renovation, the Pope spoke out in approval, advocating the use technology to evangelize youth.

The initial reluctance at the parish is not the only resistance he’s encountered. Salvadori is known for a direct and unbending approach to Catholicism that can sometimes be hard to swallow.

“Just look at some of the comments he’s got on YouTube,” Mamaradlo said.

For example, a few weeks ago Salvadori asked the entire congregation to call one MP to voice their support for an anti-abortion motion. When the motion was denied he called it a “sin of omission” and asked everyone who didn’t call to complete a penance.

Salvadori doesn’t shy away from this criticism — he welcomes it. When asked about this, his voice perked, as if he wasn’t the only priest in a parish who’d been running around all day before a 9:45 p.m. interview.

“Many words have been used to describe me, but nobody has ever used the ‘B’ word,” he said. In more than 15 years and after hundreds of good and bad e-mails from parishioners, no one has ever described a Mass with Salvadori as “boring.”

(Bronca, 21, is a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa.)

Published in Youth Speak News