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Lent is the penitential season of preparation for the celebration of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. Ash Wednesday - Feb. 10 this year - is the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. During this season, Catholics are encouraged to pray, read Scripture, to fast and give alms. These observances are intended to help us to turn our hearts and minds to God.
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In a significant turning point for the Church in Canada, the country's northernmost dioceses have shed their status as mission dioceses. The Vatican announced as of Jan. 25, it will no longer consider the six remaining mission dioceses, five of them in western and northern Canada, as mission dioceses.
Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie's childhood wasn't a happy one. He had what he needed, except for what he wanted most - the love of his dad. His father was a workaholic farmer who spent his life working the land. Sylvain, who grew up in a French Canadian farming family of eight in Saskatchewan, spent most of his teen years doing what he could to earn his father's love - to no avail.
The newly ordained bishop for the Syriac Catholic Church in Canada pledged to make his first priority the suffering and spiritual needs of beleaguered Syriacs seeking refuge in Canada. Bishop Antoine Nassif was ordained Jan. 23 by Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan at Our Lady of Deliverance Cathedral in Beirut.
Ask Professor Ali Asani about the Catholic faith, and his mind is instantly brought to its beauty. Asani is not Catholic. As a professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic religion and culture at Harvard University, he is steeped in the intellectual and experiential knowledge of Islam, but he also has developed a knowledge and appreciation of Catholicism through attending Mass.
Muslim leaders from around the world have adopted a declaration defending the rights of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries. Participants said the Marrakesh Declaration, developed during a Jan. 25-27 conference, was based on the Medina Charter, a constitutional contract between the Prophet Muhammad and the people of Medina.
In our world today, a major topic of discussion is that of euthanasia, physician-assisted dying, assisted death. Often at the centre of this discussion is the matter of suffering that is often prevalent and endured by so many. At the beginning of these reflections, it needs to be noted that suffering is an evil. In other words, suffering is not to be sought after; it is to be avoided at all costs and every effort is to be made to alleviate and overcome it when it is present.
The Catholic community must engage in a constructive dialogue that seeks, not only to respond to Alberta Education's new guidelines accommodating gender-diverse students, but to address them with a Spirit-filled response. We must find a solution faithful to our Catholic identity but which also responds to the presence of transgender students in our schools. I urge you to read the guidelines because we need everyone praying for and discerning the will of the Holy Spirit in how we ought to respond.
He loved the country and the people, but couldn't stand the traffic. "My worst experience had to be the traffic," Archbishop Richard Smith recalls of his recent tour of southern India. "To be in the middle of it is an experience. You are flying along a highway at breakneck speed and they are coming at you from the opposite direction and there is everything on the road.
Pope Francis says that in this Year of Mercy the season of Lent "should be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God's mercy." He points us to the Scriptures as the place where we can "rediscover the merciful face of the Father." Meditation on God's Word is not a common activity in our overly busy society. We meditate on many other things, but not on that which lasts, on "every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4.4).
Use the power of communication to build bridges and heal wounds, not generate hatred or misunderstanding, Pope Francis said. The Catholic Church, too, must proclaim the truth and denounce injustice without alienating everyone in need of God's help, he said in his message for World Communications Day. "We can and we must judge situations of sin - such as violence, corruption and exploitation - but we may not judge individuals, since only God can see into the depths of their hearts," he said.
If any agency was prepared for a wave of Syrian refugee families to arrive in Canada, it is Edmonton Catholic Schools' One World . . . One Centre. With a newly-made holy door at the welcome centre declaring, "Let the children come to me," assistant principal Karen Fabris and her team were not sent scrambling as news hit of the refugee crisis.
OTTAWA - A decision on whether the Alexandria-Cornwall Diocese will get a new bishop or become part of the Ottawa Archdiocese will be made by July 2017, says the Ottawa archbishop. On Jan. 13, Pope Francis named Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast apostolic administrator of Alexandria-Cornwall after Bishop Marcel Damphousse's move to the Sault Sainte Marie Diocese.
London - It can take just one month to turn a disenfranchised teenage Catholic student into fanatical Islamic terrorist, an English cardinal warned Catholic teachers. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster told delegates at a London conference to guard against the Internet recruitment of vulnerable secondary school students by the Islamic State.
Lent is a time of conversion and a time to deepen one's faith, demonstrating and sharing it through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, Pope Francis said. "Faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit," the pope said in his message for Lent, which begins Feb. 10 for Latin-rite Catholics.
Physician-assisted death legislation could include competent children under 18, a legal expert told a parliamentary committee. University of Ottawa professor Bernard Pelletier said Jan. 26 that Parliament could broaden the criteria beyond the Supreme Court's Carter decision which permits physician-assisted death for competent adults.
In his encyclical Laudato Si', Pope Francis writes of the throwaway culture that has propelled our common home into a climate crisis whose effects are felt primarily by the poor of the Global South. With that in mind, Development and Peace is inviting Catholics to join in its Share Lent campaign that focuses on the pope's encyclical.
The wait is over. Corpus Christi Parish held its first two Sunday Masses in its new $16-million church Jan. 31 and parishioners were overjoyed. At the end of the first Mass, Father Joseph Vadassery asked his congregation how they liked their new church. The people answered with cheers and applause. "It's beautiful and big; I like the big space because more people can fit into church," exclaimed Filipino-born Christine Aguila.
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis said there can be no confusion between God's plan for marriage as an indissoluble bond between one man and woman who are open to life, and other sorts of unions. "The Church, in fact, can demonstrate God's unwavering merciful love toward families, especially those wounded by sin and life's trials, and at the same time proclaim the essential truth of marriage according to God's plan," the pope said. The pope made his comments Jan. 22 in his annual meeting with members of the Roman Rota.
Thousands of Grade Eight students gathered to sing, pray, learn, laugh and celebrate what it means to be Catholic at the first annual Father Michael Mireau Youth Faith Day on Feb. 1. Mireau, the Edmonton Catholic Schools chaplain for whom the event was named in honour, would have gotten a kick out of the sight.
Two hundred years ago the French aristocrat Eugene de Mazenod gathered a few priests into a kind of evangelical gang in southeastern France. They went into neglected, impoverished parishes preaching in the local dialect of Provençal, not French, sharing their lives and the Gospel with poor people who had been left behind by modern France.
MARRAKESH, Morocco - Iraq's Chaldean Catholic patriarch said increasing incidents of discrimination against Christians in Iraqi society are inciting fear and causing an exodus of Christians from their homeland. In a speech circulated at a Jan. 25-27 conference on the rights of religious minorities in the Muslim world, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad cited Muslim contractors refusing to build homes, monasteries, etc., for Christians whom they identify as infidels.
QUEBEC - On Dec. 12, Notre Dame Cathedral in Quebec City re-opened its Holy Door, the only permanent holy door in the Americas. These symbolic doors grace only seven important cathedrals in the world. The most famous is in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican while the other six are in Rome, France, Spain and Quebec.
Edmonton - Archbishop Richard Smith has joined others in expressing his frustration with the provincial government's new gender identity guidelines. In a Jan. 21 pastoral letter, the archbishop also contends some trustees have betrayed the public trust. Smith says the guidelines contain constructive, and reasonable suggestions for best practices, but others could pose problems for Catholic schools. The Church, he says, opposes guidelines that allow students to self-identify their own gender expression or identity.