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One year after quake, Haitians pray

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- In front of a national cathedral that lay in rubble, Catholic leaders marked the anniversary of Haiti's deadly earthquake by praying for its victims and calling for reconstruction of this tattered Caribbean country.

"This tragedy took everything. ... and sickness and death is still hitting" Haitians, said Cardinal Robert Sarah, the papal envoy, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and the main celebrant at the Mass. "We call on the international community ... to develop the country, to develop Haiti."

Throughout the earthquake-torn capital, Haitians flocked to churches for prayer services Jan. 12, the anniversary of the earthquake. Schools and many businesses closed for the day, which was declared a national holiday and a day of prayer.

Thousands attended the morning service outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. Haiti's prime minister, presidential candidates and musicians sat in tents flanked by choirs and scores of residents.

Many stood under a cloudless sky in the blaring Haitian sun, singing and praying. Others sat barefoot on blankets, lost in the bitter memories of a year of grief.

Sudanese bishop: South marching toward independence

WASHINGTON -- A bishop in northern Sudan said he believed the people of Southern Sudan were "marching toward the goal of what they expected, to be free in dignity and respect of rights," as a referendum on independence passed the halfway mark.

Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok Kur of Khartoum wrote Jan. 12 from the town of Kosti in northern Sudan that the polls remained calm. At least two observers from the South reported that voting there was also going well.

Most observers expected the people of Southern Sudan to vote to separate from the rest of the country. Southern Sudanese in the country's North as well as those who fled to other countries, including the United States, were allowed to vote beginning Jan. 9.

However, Adwok said many people from Southern Sudan living in the North voted against independence, fearing they would face reprisal from the Islamic government in Khartoum if the South seceded. In many locales in the North, the bishop said, all or almost all registered voters had been to the polls by Jan. 12.

In Haiti, aid agencies focus on developing skills

WASHINGTON -- As recovery efforts slowly move forward a year after a massive earthquake leveled Haiti's most densely populated communities, aid and development agencies have begun focusing on building the skills of Haitians to better address the numerous challenges facing the impoverished nation.

Such efforts are taking advantage of the resiliency, determination and entrepreneurial spirit of Haitians, who have been forced to deal with oppressive or unresponsive governments and the remnants of colonial rule for generations.

Aid and development workers call the effort "capacity building." Representatives of Catholic Relief Services, the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti and the U.S. Agency for International Development told a gathering to mark the one-year anniversary of the earthquake Jan. 11 that no matter how much aid they provide, the sooner Haitians develop the ability to deal with the country's social, political and disaster-related challenges, the better off the Caribbean nation will become.

On Haiti earthquake anniversary, a papal full-court press

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On the one-year anniversary of an earthquake that left an estimated 300,000 people in overwhelmingly Catholic Haiti dead, with another 300,000 injured and more than one million homeless, Pope Benedict XVI is offering what amounts to a full-court press of financial, ecclesiastical and spiritual support.

One year to the day after the quake claimed the life of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince, the pope moved to fill the vacuum atop the Haitian hierarchy by naming a successor: 69-year-old Archbishop Guire Poulard, who spent most of his priestly career in pastoral assignments in Port-au-Prince before serving as the bishop of two smaller Haitian dioceses.

Speaking on background, church observers said Poulard is in some ways a bold choice. He was among the most outspoken Catholic critics of human rights abuses under former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, especially his second term from 2001 to 2004. At the time, the Haitian bishops’ conference sometimes attempted to position itself as a mediator – a choice that did not go down well with Poulard, then the bishop of Jacmel in southern Haiti.

Day one of Sudan vote peaceful - and hopeful

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Juba, Sudan
Juba Archbishop Paolino Lukudu Loro was smiling after casting his vote late Sunday afternoon towards the end of the first day of a weeklong referendum that will likely lead southern Sudan to split from the North.

Southern Sudanese packed the polls all day Sunday and so far, fears about violence or voter tampering appeared to be unrealized.

“Everybody is just very happy and very peaceful,” said Mr. Loro, as he prepared to leave the polling place, the Hai Jelaba Basic School. He gestured towards the crowd of roughly hundred men and women waiting patiently in line. “They don’t want any war or any trouble. They want peace. And I think these people have decided to live their own lives as Africans and as peacefully as possible.

As Sudan vote begins, fears of violence seem unrealized

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JUBA, SUDAN -- Paolino Lukudu Loro, the Archbishop of Juba, was smiling after casting his vote late Sunday afternoon here, towards the end of the first day of a weeklong referendum that will likely lead southern Sudan to split from the northern part of the country.

Southern Sudanese packed the polls all day Sunday and so far, fears about violence or other tampering appeared to be unrealized.

“Everybody is just very happy and very peaceful,” said Loro, as he prepared to leave the polling place, the Hai Jelaba Basic School. He gestured towards the crowd of roughly hundred men and women waiting patiently in line. “They don’t want any war or any trouble. They want peace. And I think these people have decided to live their own lives as Africans and as peacefully as possible.

In Juba, the capital of the region, the day was marked by a large and vibrant celebration at the polling place located near the burial site of John Garang, considered southern Sudan’s founder.

On eve of Sudan vote, Cardinal tells Catholics: 'Stay involved'

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JUBA, SUDAN -- Nearly four million Sudanese began voting today in a referendum that could bring a new country into being. The polls opened around 8 a.m. local time here in south Sudan, roughly the size of France.

Last night, on the eve of the momentous vote, South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier advised Sudan’s church leaders’ to remain actively engaged in state affairs.

Nigerian archbishop urges president to take action

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja urged Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to take bold steps to address the level of insecurity in the country.

Onaiyekan, former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, spoke to journalists after a New Year's Eve bomb blast in his city and earlier violence and attacks in and around the city of Jos.

"What is expected of Jonathan's administration at the moment is clear, vivid and strict measures in tackling the continuous cases of bomb blasts in the country," the archbishop said.

He said that in dealing with issues of terrorism, politics should be separated from criminality. He added that suspects in terrorist acts are treated with kid gloves.

"If you bombed and killed people, that is criminal," he said. "If you carry bombs around and detonate them with the aim of killing and destroying not only persons ... but their properties, that is a criminal act that requires the prompt action in punishing the culprits."

Sudan's precarious vote on independence

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After decades of civil war, the people of southern Sudan face a referendum Jan. 9 on whether to remain united with the north as one country or secede and form their own separate nation.

An overwhelming vote in favor of independence is expected, but whichever way the vote goes, “Sudan will never be the same again, because the people have exercised their free and democratic choice,” the nation’s Catholic bishops said in a statement Nov. 14 during their plenary meeting in Rumbek in southern Sudan.

Christmas in Beijing

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BEIJING -- We knew that Christmas was in the air as we walked into the Beijing Capital International Airport, not only because it was December but also because of the huge and elegant nativity scene and Christmas decorations that adorned the airport's arrival hall.

Why is the Chinese government celebrating Christmas? Is this not the same people who persecuted, tortured and expelled Christians? Is this not the same regime which crushed all forms of religious expressions during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution? Is this not the country whose synonyms are communist and atheist?

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September 12-25, 2014

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