VATICAN CITY – In a world filled with frustration and fear, seeking the common good is more important than ever, Pope Francis told French politicians.

Published in International

NEW YORK – The campaign of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced Sept. 22 that it has formed a group of Catholic leaders to advise him "on those issues and policies important to Catholics and other people of faith in America."

Published in International

Most American churchgoers are hearing politics from the pulpits of their churches during this presidential election season, according to a new survey.

Published in International

MEXICO CITY – Mexicans turned out in droves to oust the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party in June 5 regional elections. Exit polls showed voters citing crime and corruption for removing the party of increasingly unpopular President Enrique Pena Nieto in seven of the 12 states holding gubernatorial elections.

Published in International

OTTAWA – Several opposition amendments intended to inject safeguards into the federal government's assisted-suicide legislation, including a proposal to explicitly limit doctor-assisted death to the terminally ill, were defeated as Liberal-dominated committee hearings began.

Published in Canada

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – War rhetoric from South African political leaders could incite election violence and civil war, a South African bishop warned.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY – U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said attending a Vatican conference on Catholic social teaching did not represent a political endorsement of his run for higher office.

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More than 50 conservative Catholic activists and political leaders have come out in support of Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz in an effort to shore up Catholic backing for Cruz as an alternative to Donald Trump.

Published in International
September 24, 2015

People before politics

To be a Christian in Cuba means being subjected to state surveillance, discrimination, harassment and sometimes arrest. It also means being a casualty of the punishing U.S. trade embargo that inflicts unjust suffering on all Cubans.

Published in Editorial

“I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!”   
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)

Published in Register Columnists

BETHLEHEM - Catholic priests in the Palestinian Territories want Pope Francis to press Israel to allow greater freedom of movement, especially access to holy sites in Jerusalem, and they expect the issue to be addressed when the Pope meets with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem on May 26.

Published in International

If there's anything religion is not, it is most certainly not a refuge from politics. Pope Francis is still several days from arriving in the Holy Land, but the politics of his visit are already raging.

May 7, 2014

Time to meddle

These are trying times to be a politically hopeful citizen. At almost every turn, politicians at all levels of public life are exhibiting scandalous behaviour and dishonouring what should be the honourable profession of advancing the common good.

Published in Editorial

Native leader loses track of the facts at St. Kateri’s canonization

The making of saints is a joyous affair, with a gracious spirit abounding toward all, and a determined effort to ignore any discordant notes. I recall, for example, at the beatification Mass for Cardinal John Henry Newman my surprise at seeing Bishop Remi De Roo, the retired bishop of Victoria, sitting not a few paces away from Pope Benedict XVI. Bishop De Roo had been keeping a determinedly low profile since leaving his diocese plagued by financial scandal, so it was a surprise to see him at all.

Yet there he was, ebullient at Newman’s beatification, taking the great cardinal as inspiration for his own theological vision. The Holy Father, for his part, was inspired enough by Newman that he departed from his usual practice and conducted the beatification himself. Between Benedict XVI and Bishop De Roo there is a vast difference as to the proper interpretation of the Second Vatican Council and other theological matters, and the former would be astonished that the latter would claim Newman for his positions. But it was a beatification, the saints belong to the whole Church, and so the gracious thing to do was not to notice the incongruity of it all.

It is inevitable that new saints are used for partisan purposes by various factions in the Church. Sometimes the Holy See attempts to forestall the attempt to use the saints in this fashion, as for example when Pope John XXIII and Pope Pius IX were beatified on the same day, or when Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII were declared venerable on the same day.

The canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha on Oct. 21 was characterized — wittingly or not — in such factional terms by Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who was present in Rome for the canonization. Fontaine had been in Rome in 2009, accompanied by Canadian bishops, to receive an apology for the treatment of native children in residential schools. So he speaks with some authority on relations between native peoples and the Catholic Church. But what he said in Rome cannot go unremarked.

“(The canonization) makes it possible, very much possible, to bring our community — the First Nations — very much closer with the Catholic Church. There was rupture for too long,” he told Catholic News Service.

“The canonization makes it possible to share our daughter with the universal Church,” he continued. “If you link the two events (the 2009 visit and the canonization), it is all about imparting reconciliation. It is an opportunity for us to say, ‘We accept your apology, we forgive, and so now let us begin taking the important steps of healing and reconciliation.’ ”

Healing and reconciliation need to be rooted in truth, and what Fontaine said is not rooted in the truth of Kateri’s life. Kateri’s choice to be baptized and practise her Catholic faith meant that her own people persecuted her, so much so that she left her native village in present-day upstate New York and moved to the Christian mission near Montreal, where she died at age 24.
As to whether she belongs to her native tribe or the universal Church, the answer is that she belongs to both. But if she was forced to choose, it is clear that Kateri would have chosen her faith. In fact, that is what she did at considerable cost.

More objectionable is Fontaine’s treatment of the canonization as a sort of super-apology, as if the Church gave native Canadians a saint to compensate them for their suffering. That would make Kateri an instrument of factional jockeying rather than a model of holiness. Moreover, it neglects the fact that in the complex history of the Church and native peoples, Kateri is an example of native persecution of Christians, not the other way around.

“St. Kateri was persecuted for the faith she held so tenaciously,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in his statement. The prime minister did not mention who persecuted her. Good manners today mean that we don’t mention the aboriginal peoples who made martyrs — sometimes brutally so — of Christians, but an objection must be made when Kateri is advanced as an occasion of “accepting” an apology from the Church. The truth of history is exactly the opposite.

Fontaine was a discordant voice in his remarks to Catholic News Service. Most voices — aboriginal and otherwise — did not see this as the latest installment of an ongoing conflict between natives and the Church, but a blessing for both. It was, and St. Kateri may well obtain from God the gift of reconciliation for the First Nations peoples, but reconciliation requires first that the truth be told.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

On May 1 in Ottawa I had the pleasure of delivering a speech to politicians and others at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Below is an abridged version of that address.

My topic is “Faith in our Common Life: Why Politics Needs Religion.” But permit me to say a few words first about why politicians need religion.

Exactly one year ago, many of you were in the final moments of a federal election campaign. It was a Sunday and the people’s verdict was to be rendered the next day. On a typical Sunday morning I am found in my parish on Wolfe Island, in the St. Lawrence River across from Kingston, but a year ago I was in Rome awaiting the pronunciation of a rather different judgment. Pope John Paul II was declared blessed.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza