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Pope Francis and other Catholic leaders are pleading for help to liberate villages in Iraq controlled by the Islamic State terrorists and to provide the displaced with international protection. Church leaders have deplored the persecution of Christians and other minorities throughout the Middle East, especially in northeastern Iraq, and called for Catholics to pray for peace and provide material aid to those fleeing the violence.
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More than 1,200 students returned to school early at three Catholic schools in downtown Edmonton. Mother Teresa Elementary, St. Catherine Elementary/Junior High and St. Alphonsus Elementary/Junior High had students at their desks Aug. 11, the fourth year the trio of schools has run on a year-round calendar.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – Pope Francis has warned South Korea's Catholic bishops not to let their country's "prosperous, yet increasingly secularized and materialistic society" distract the Church from its essential duty to evangelize. Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the southern half of the peninsula has risen from poverty to become the world's 13th-largest economy – good fortune that Pope Francis said posed cultural and spiritual perils.
EDMONTON – In a four-minute video prepared by Catholic Social Services, Oblate Father Brian Jayawardhana was described as a man of integrity, faith and compassion. In that same video, a Bible verse selected to describe the beloved priest was Micah 6.8: "loves tenderly, acts justly, walks humbly with his God."
For the fifth time, Wally Streit is the recipient of the Knights of Columbus' order-wide Top Recruiter Award. Streit, a retired banker, is a past state deputy of the Alberta Knights of Columbus. He is currently the state new council development director. Since 1998, he has recruited 1,974 members, including 261 last year.
OTTAWA – The president of Canada's bishops' conference welcomed the naming of Dennis Savoie as Canada's new ambassador to the Holy See. "Mr. Savoie is a man who has given leadership both at the civic and community level in Canada," said Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Many of the acts at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival push to be the most absurd, sexual and extreme. There are plays about incest and rape, another about a phone sex operator, which in some instances actually glorify these acts. In contrast, One Candle Productions presented Tobit, a 90-minute, family-friendly play.
More than 60 years after the end of the Korean War, Pope Francis has urged the people of South Korea to seek the reunification of their divided country. "Are there two Koreas?" Pope Francis asked participants in an Asian Youth Day gathering Aug. 15. "No, there is one, but it is divided; the family is divided." To promote reunification, the pope said he had one piece of advice to offer.
The memory of that brutal June evening in his home near Mosul, Iraq, brought 48-year-old Joseph, now a refugee in Lebanon, to tears. "These people know no limits of humanity, decency, or respect for human life," he said of the Islamic State fighters. Meeting with Catholic News Service Aug. 8 at the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center in Beirut, he and other Catholic Iraqi refugees asked that their real names not be used to protect their identities as they shared the traumatic experiences that led to their exodus.
Jesuit novices in Guelph, Ont., in 1918 expected to wake early to prayers and devotions, then Mass, then breakfast. They did not expect to be woken by military police. But at the urging of some of Guelph's Protestant ministers one spring morning, as war raged in Europe, Capt. A.C. Macaulay and his men raided St. Stanislaus Novitiate north of the city. They were looking for Catholic shirkers - young men pretending to pursue religious vocations to avoid military service.
Every year since 1919, Catholics have been coming to the beautiful Skaro shrine to celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption. And for the Aug. 14 vigil Mass and candlelight procession, the number of pilgrims was in the usual range of 3,000 to 4,000. For a few dedicated souls, however, the Skaro shrine receives more than a once-a-year visit.
TORONTO – Canada Post's new release of stamps by prominent photographers includes a well-known shot by Michel Lambeth of two Sisters of St. Joseph and a man who helped the sisters in Toronto. The stamp, titled St. Joseph's Convent School, is one of 35 being released in phases over a five-year period, with seven being introduced this year alone.
The cost of a one-year subscription to the Western Catholic Reporter will increase by $5 effective Oct. 15, 2014. For subscribers who live in Alberta, that means the price of a one-year subscription to the biweekly newspaper will increase from $30 to $35.
This issue of the Western Catholic Reporter sees three changes in our lineup of columnists. Ralph Himsl of Lethbridge, who has been one of four regular writers on the Sunday readings since 1991, is retiring. His place in our rotation of columnists will be assumed by Brett Fawcett of Sherwood Park.
Canada's prolife Crossroads Walkers finished their three-month trek across the country in Ottawa Aug. 16 with a small rally near Parliament Hill's Eternal Flame. Eight young men and women, some of whom had completed the entire walk, others who had joined later for part of it, wore the bold prolife T-shirts they had displayed throughout their pilgrimage.
As an international fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus is well-positioned to follow Pope Francis' witness of "love for the sick, the suffering and the poor," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. That "extraordinary witness" and the pope's admonition to all to cast aside indifference have "captured the imagination of the world," he said Aug. 5 at the opening business session of the Knights' 132nd supreme convention in Orlando, Fla.
SKARO – We live in "a treadmill society" in which people expend great amounts of energy and are proud of being busy, but end up going nowhere, says Archbishop Richard Smith. Fitness centres with their treadmills, rowing machines and stationary bicycles are typical of today's society, Smith said. "People are running for all they're worth; they're rowing like crazy, peddling like mad and going absolutely no place."
Father Raymond Gravel, an outspoken social activist and advocate for Quebec independence, died of lung cancer Aug. 11. He was 61. Gravel was well known for publicly questioning Church teachings on homosexuality, abortion and the role of women in the Church.