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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.

Lusaka archbishop warns of disaster

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LUSAKA, Zambia -- Lusaka Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu warned of a "huge disaster" if political authorities do not take decisive action to discourage their supporters from engaging in acts of violence.

"Although Zambians are generally peaceful and long-suffering people, those we elect to rule us should always bear in mind that there is limit to people's patience and resilience, as recent events in North Africa and the Middle East can testify," Archbishop Mpundu said. "Law enforcement institutions seem to be powerless and paralyzed into inaction while people are beaten up in their presence and absence alike."

The archbishop said it was sad that those who perpetrated political violence could not be arrested even though they were well-known.

"These cadres ... act with impunity, maiming innocent citizens, threatening others with unprintable atrocities in the open, insulting even public figures and terrorizing commuters at bus and railway stations, at marketplaces and even at the international airport at will," he said.

Germans leaving Catholic Church in droves

BERLIN -- The number of Germans leaving the Roman Catholic Church rose dramatically in 2010 as Pope Benedict XVI’s homeland wrestled with reports of systematic sexual abuse of minors and attempted cover-ups, according to a study by a German newspaper.

About 180,000 Catholics officially ended their church affiliation in 2010, a rise of 50,000 (or 40 percent) from 2009, according to the weekly Die Zeit newspaper.

The data was collected from surveys answered by most of Germany’s major dioceses. Official church-collected data is not expected until the summer.

The release of 2009 defections almost a year ago had already signaled a growing wave of departures even before the scandal fully erupted last year as several officials at church-run schools were accused of abusing children.

“The increase of church departures in 2010 represents a loss of trust that fell especially hard on the church because of the abuse cases,” said Dominik Schwaderlappe, the general vicar of Cologne. “This is painful for us, because it clearly shows that people are using church departures as their personal form of protest and as a way to show their disgust with the scandal.”

Despite history of stability, turmoil reaches Syria

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DAMASCUS, SYRIA -- Up until recently, it seemed as if the turmoil going on in other parts of the Arab world might pass Syria by. When I arrived for a weeklong visit, Syria was still quiet. When I asked Syrians what they thought of the upheaval occurring in other countries in the region, they told me “The situation is different in Syria.” And then, in a matter of days, things changed.

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July 18-31, 2014

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