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Pope sends representative to Japan

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VATICAN CITY -- Two months after a strong earthquake created havoc in Japan, setting off a tsunami and crippling a nuclear power plant, Pope Benedict XVI sent an envoy to the disaster area to express the pope's concern for all affected, the Vatican said.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, was visiting Japan May 13-16 to convey the pope's "closeness, his prayers and his assistance," said a Vatican communique May 12.

The magnitude 9 earthquake struck March 11. According to a report May 6 from the Japanese Red Cross Society, 14,704 people have been confirmed death and almost 11,000 were still missing. The Red Cross also said that more than 125,000 of the people displaced by the quake were still in temporary housing two months after the earthquake.

Cardinal Sarah was to convey the pope's support to "all the families of the victims, the displaced and all the volunteers who tirelessly are working on reconstruction," the Vatican said.

Anglican: New Mass translation ecumenically harmful

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ROME -- Because the Roman Catholic Church was a driving force behind the development of a common English translation of basic prayers used by many Christian churches for 40 years, more recent Vatican rules for translating Mass prayers "came as a bombshell," said an Anglican liturgist.

"I do not contest for a moment the prerogative of churches to change their liturgical texts," said the Rev. David Holeton, a professor at Charles University in Prague.

But he said other Christians were "both stunned and dismayed" when the Vatican abandoned the English texts of prayers Catholics had developed with them since the Second Vatican Council and when the Vatican discouraged Catholics from consulting ecumenically on the new translations.

The Anglican liturgist spoke May 5 at a conference marking the 50th anniversary of Rome's Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

Mexico City priest found murdered

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MEXICO CITY -- A Catholic priest was found murdered in his Mexico City parish, a victim to what local authorities said was an early morning robbery attempt.

The body of Father Jose Francisco Sanchez Duran was found April 26 by a sacristan in St. Joseph Parish in the Coyoacan borough of Mexico City, where police sources told the newspaper Reforma that the priest had been sleeping.

The newspaper reported Father Sanchez, 63, suffered head injuries inflicted with a chair.

Armando Martinez Gomez, president of the College of Catholic Lawyers of Mexico, confirmed the death, telling Catholic News Service, "It was a homicide." He was unable to provide additional details.

Attempts to reach a local public security secretariat spokesman April 26 were unsuccessful. The Archdiocese of Mexico City spokesman, Father Hugo Valdemar, called for churches and priests to be provided more protection.

"Unfortunately, in Mexico City, we've had, unlike any other city in the country, a series of priests killed. This is one more," Father Valdemar told Reforma.

After presidential elections, Haitians weary of easy promises

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- I first met Anne Suze Denestant in January. A resident of one of Port-au-Prince’s tent cities, she struck me as quiet, a bit shy but also confident and, when need be, steely.

She has to be. Denestant lost her right arm in the devastating January 2010 earthquake, and while she spoke softly and hesitantly of her experiences adjusting to a physical disability, her voice rose when she expressed clear exasperation and anger that so little had been done for her and other survivors by Haitian authorities in the intervening year since 2010.

Had the government done anything? "Not in the slightest," she said. "Everything that we've gotten, we've gotten from the NGOs"

When I saw Denestant again, during Holy Week, she said: "We’re still not where we want to be," and expressed a note of caution about newly elected president and one-time Carnival singer Michel Martelly -- known affectionately by fans, and a bit dismissingly by critics as "Sweet Micky," his stage name.

Clinics fulfill vital role in Haiti's strained health care system

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- Yvrose Jacques uses her one leg to roll her wheelchair out of the hospital ward and onto the veranda at the LaKu LaPe Clinic to get a little fresh air and look up at the clear blue sky.

A smile crosses her face as visitors approach. She extends a hand for a warm embrace.

Fears of cholera at Ivory Coast church

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DUEKOUE, Ivory Coast -- The priest directing a mission where at least 30,000 refugees remain said he feared an outbreak of cholera if more aid is not received soon.

Food, water, medicine and sanitation facilities are in short supply for those who took refuge at a Salesian-run mission in Duekoue after armed fighting March 29 left at least 800 dead in this multiethnic city of 47,000.

"There is no food, people are sleeping on the ground, there is nowhere else to go, there are no toilets or washing facilities and we have no drinking water," Salesian Father Vicente Grupeli, director of the St. Therese of the Child Jesus Mission in Duekoue, told the Salesian news agency ANS.

The Salesian mission office in Madrid launched an urgent appeal for food, water, medical supplies and other needs.

The mission, the site of a vocational training center, a home for children and a youth center, suspended all activities to care for the refugees who have overwhelmed the facility, Father Grupeli told ANS.

Colombian bishops fight same-sex adoption

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BOGOTA, Colombia -- The Colombian bishops' conference is campaigning against the possibility of legalized adoption by same-sex couples.

"We Catholics oppose allowing minors to be given in adoption to couples composed of people of the same sex and reject a possible decision of the Constitutional Court in that sense," Bogota Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez, conference president, said in a statement read at Masses April 17, Palm Sunday.

The statement laid out four arguments against same-sex adoptions. It argued that Colombia's Constitution defines a family as a man, woman and children; that most Colombians oppose adoptions by same-sex couples; that scientific studies have questioned how having "parents" of the same sex affects children's development; and that adoption is not a right for couples, but intended to benefit the child.

Gay rights activists dispute those points and attended Palm Sunday Mass wearing shirts with statements such as "I am gay, I'm Catholic and I have children" and "Homophobia is not Christian."

Jordan protests reveal east, west bank tensions

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AMMAN, JORDAN -- Jordan, like Syria, had viewed itself as immune from the political ferment sweeping the Middle East, but in both cases those assumptions have proved to be wrong. Since January, a number of large demonstrations have been held in Jordan, with participants calling for constitutional reform, an end to corruption, and measures to curb rising food prices and unemployment. The broad-based protests have included Islamists, lawyers and trade unionists in addition to students.

“More interesting than the demonstrations is that the king has received a petition signed by many of the tribal leaders demanding an end to corruption, and specifically they were pointing a finger at his wife,” said Murhaf Jouejati, a professor of Middle East Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. “This is unprecedented. In Jordan, the monarch is the arbitrator of conflicts and one major pillar of his power are the tribes. When these tribes complain, he listens.”

French bishops support counterparts in Egypt, Libya

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PARIS -- France's bishops have written to church leaders in Egypt and Libya, pledging to back their campaign for democracy and justice.

"You have shown us your aspiration for dignity, respect, justice and democracy for those entrusted to you," said the April 13 letter, signed by six bishops, including the bishop of the armed forces and the head of the French chapter of Pax Christi.

"They need our support so the impetus does not become exhausted. But they also need us to renew our own adherence to these founding values," the letter said.

Day of prayer launched for Pakistani victims

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ROME -- Catholics and human rights activists have called for a worldwide day of prayer for Asia Bibi and other victims of the anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan.

The Masihi Foundation, a Pakistani group that works to protect minority rights in Pakistan and is providing legal assistance to Bibi, said the idea was to rally prayerful support April 20, the Wednesday of Holy Week.

Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, has been jailed since June 2009 and still awaits a trial date for her appeal.

The day of prayer "intends to bring into communion all believers and all people of goodwill in prayer and to light a candle, imploring God's salvation and the freedom of this woman and all who suffer the consequences of being falsely accused of blasphemy," Haroon Masih, the Masihi Foundation's director, told Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Catholic leaders in Pakistan and human rights activists have said the country's anti-blasphemy law has been misused to persecute Christians and other minorities.

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