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Church leaders follow Egyptian unrest with concern

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VATICAN CITY -- Church leaders were watching the unfolding political drama in Egypt with a mixture of hope for reform and concern over potential violence, said the head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa told Vatican Radio Jan. 30 that the widespread unrest that has weakened the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak came as a surprise to Catholics in the region.

Haitians relieved 'to be on the other side'

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I just missed bumping into Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier at the Port-au-Prince airport on Jan. 16. I was already en route back to New York when he returned from exile and, in an unexpected and stunning move, uprooted Haiti's political landscape. Already friends and colleagues in Haiti tell me that Port-au-Prince is abuzz with rumors. Can a return by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide be next?

Maybe the move isn't wholly surprising in a country of political uncertainty and jarring and startling contrasts and illuminations. Still, one reason it felt like such a jolt was because in the days before and after the commemorations of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, things had been relatively calm. (Though underline that word "relatively.") My time in Haiti was notable less for high drama than for more subtle moments.

Bishop: Vatican-approved group caused 'problems', 'chaos'

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Updated: Jan. 14 -- Pope to show support for Neocatechumenate

Jan. 13 -- The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ) has called for the cooperation of priests and laypeople to confront “problems” with the Neocatechumenal Way, which he says has had a negative effect in the country.

“In those places touched by the Neocatechumenal Way, there has been rampant confusion, conflict, division, and chaos,” the Jesuit Archbishop of Osaka, Leo Jun Ikenaga, said in a statement published in Katorikku Shimbun, the Catholic Weekly of Japan, yesterday.

“In Japan, the net effect has been negative,” said Ikenaga in his statement. “We bishops, in light of our apostolic pastoral responsibility, could not ignore the damage.”

Pope Benedict XVI refused a request from four Japanese bishops, including Ikenaga, in Rome Dec. 13 to suspend the international organization’s activities in Japan for five years.

Pope names first diplomatic representative to Vietnam

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VATICAN CITY -- In a first step toward establishing diplomatic relations, Pope Benedict XVI has named a 57-year-old Vatican diplomat to be a "non-resident pontifical representative" for Vietnam.

Italian Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, currently Vatican nuncio to Indonesia, was reassigned Jan. 13 to serve as the pope's representative to Vietnam and simultaneously as nuncio in Singapore and apostolic delegate in Malaysia and Brunei (two countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the Vatican).

Girelli, who has been in the Vatican diplomatic corps since 1987, previously served at nunciatures in Cameroon, in New Zealand and in the United States, as well as in the Vatican Secretariat of State. He was ordained a bishop in 2006 when he was named nuncio to Indonesia.

A joint working group formed by the Vatican and Vietnam's communist government announced in June that the two sides were agreed that a papal representative would be named. A statement from the working group said that unlike a nuncio, the representative would not be residing in Vietnam for the time being.

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.

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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