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New papal representative to Ireland promises to strengthen relations

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DUBLIN -- Pope Benedict XVI's new representative to Ireland has promised to strengthen relations between the country and the Holy See.

Archbishop Charles Brown, a native of New York, spoke while presenting his credentials as apostolic nuncio to Ireland and dean of the country's diplomatic corps to President Michael Higgins.

In brief remarks to Higgins, Archbishop Brown said that Pope Benedict XVI had asked him to "solidify and strengthen" the relations between Ireland and the Holy See.

The meeting came three months after the Irish government provoked controversy by closing its embassy to the Vatican. While ministers blamed the closure on economic concerns, the move was widely interpreted as representing a chill in relations: The government had been highly critical of the Vatican's approach to child abuse scandals in the country.

The truth will out, even for dictators

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The news that former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt will stand trial on charges of genocide is a welcome sign that some of Guatemala’s institutions are able to begin squaring off with the darker episodes of a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.

The 85-year-old Ríos Montt represents a particularly evil and bloody approach in a conflict that never lacked for producing horrors.

Middle East Christians keep wary eye on Arab Spring

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CAIRO -- From her home, Samia Ramsis holds a key chain bearing the face of the Virgin Mary as visitors outside come to look upon the spot where Egypt's Coptic Christians believe Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus found refuge after fleeing Bethlehem.

Once crowded with Christians, Cairo's Coptic quarter where she lives with her husband, Mounir, and two children is now home to fewer than 50 Christian families.

"We know many Christians have left," said Mounir Ramsis, speaking not only about this quarter but about all of Egypt. "But we love this country and will stay until death."

The Arab Spring uprisings that toppled secular dictatorships have unleashed long-suppressed freedoms that have allowed Islamic parties to gain a share of political power they have been denied for decades. Their rise is creating near-panic among ancient Christian communities that dot the Muslim world and predate Islam by centuries.

Unarmed resistance still Syria's best hope

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VIEWPOINT

The Syrian pro-democracy struggle has been both an enormous tragedy and a powerful inspiration. Indeed, as someone who has studied mass nonviolent civil insurrections in dozens of countries in recent decades, I know of no people who have demonstrated such courage and tenacity in the face of such savage repression as have the people of Syria these past 10 months.

The resulting decline in the legitimacy of Bashar al-Assad’s government gives hope that the opposition will eventually win. The question is how many more lives will be lost until then.

While the repressive nature of regime has never been in question, many observers believed it would be smarter and more nuanced in its reaction when the protests of the Arab Spring first came to Syria in March. Indeed, had the government responded to the initial demonstrations like those of Morocco and neighboring Jordan with genuine (if relatively minor) reforms and more subtle means of crowd control, the pro-democracy struggle would have probably faded rather quickly.

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