Coast to Coast: April 5 to April 12 , 2014


Here’s what’s happening across Canada this week:

In Brampton, Ontario a Ukranian Catholic Church that was built with the help of parishioners, burned to the ground over the weekend.

In Winnipeg, the director of the archdiocesan refugee sponsorship program says the Canadian government is abandoning Afghan refugees in an increasingly tense Russia.

In Vancouver, Catholic Cemeteries explores the Canadian history buried in their own backyard.

and in Montreal, a Sister of Notre Dame reflects on the kidnapping of Sr. Gilberte Bussiere

Coast to Coast will return on Saturday May 3, 2014.

Vatican Connections: Friday April 11, 2014

This week we have details on Pope Francis’ Holy Week schedule and his Holy Week schedule. Venezuela has officially asked the Vatican for help in talks between government and opposition leaders, and we look at one holy site in Rome that is being restored for the first time since the 15th century.


In a late-breaking development, On Friday, Pope Francis sent a letter to Venezuela’s president Nicholas Maduro, members of the government and opposition, and the people of Venezuela. Below is Vatican Radio’s translation of the letter:

To President Nicolas Maduro Moros, members of Government, representatives of the Mesa de Unidad Democratica and UNASUR leaders.

“Firstly, I desire to thank you for inviting the Holy See to take part in this process of dialogue and peace for your beloved country. I assure each of you of my prayers, so that this meeting and the process you are undertaking bear the desired fruits of national reconciliation and peace, gifts that we invoke from God, for the Venezuelan population.

I am aware of the restlessness and pain that many people are experiencing, and while I express my concern for what is taking place, I renew my affection for all Venezuelans, especially for the victims of violence and their families. I am deeply convinced that violence can never bring peace and wellbeing to a country, because it only ever generates more violence. On the contrary, through dialogue you can rediscover common and shared ground that will help to overcome the current moment of conflict and polarization, which profoundly wounds Venezuela, to find new forms of collaboration. In respect and recognition of the differences that exist in your country, the common good can be favored. In fact, all of you share in the love you have for your nation and its people. You also share concerns linked to the economic crisis, violence and criminality. You all care deeply about your children’s future and desire that peace which distinguishes the Venezuelan people. You all share faith in God and the will to defend the dignity of the human person.

This is what draws you together and urges you to undertake a process of dialogue which begins today, which must be rooted in an authentic culture of encounter, aware that unity must always prevail over conflict. Therefore, `I urge you not to get stuck in the conflict of the moment but open yourselves to one another to become true builders of peace. At the heart of all sincere dialogue is reciprocal recognition and respect . Above all, there is the “heroism” of forgiveness and mercy, which free us from resentment, from hate and open up a road that is truly new. It is a long and difficult road, which requires patience and courage, but it is the only one that can lead to justice and peace. For the good of all your people and the future of your children, I ask you to have this courage.

With these sentiments I accompany the dear Venezuelan nation, and upon each of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing, invoking the help of Our Lord”.

Also on Friday, Pope Francis met with the International Catholic Child Bureau. During his audience he made the strongest public statements on clerical sexual abuse that we have heard from him thus far. Abandoning his prepared text, Pope Francis said:
” I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children…”
Victims advocacy groups were quick to say his statement was not enough. The US based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, released a statement asking Catholics to “be impressed by deeds, not words.”
Until recently it might have been an understandable response, but this year Pope Francis created the Commission for the Protection of Minors. He appointed eight people to that Commission, all of whom can be considered “heavy weights” in the area. One of the members, Marie Collins, is a survivor of clerical sexual abuse who started advocacy and support groups for victims in Ireland. Other members of the commission include psychiatrists specialized in identifying potential abusers, and experts in canon and civil law. The commission is currently working on ratifying its statues and identifying additional members for the committee. 

***Vatican Connections will be on hiatus for the next two weeks. Tune in May 2, 2014

Coast to Coast: March 29 to April 4


Here are some of the stories happening this week in Canada:

In Vancouver, a Sister of Notre Dame will receive an honorary doctorate for her work in interfaith relations and ecumenism

In Calgary, nine months after the floods in that city members of the Siska Nation are still displaced. Bishop Henry and the Diocese of Calgary offered a spiritual and practical blessing to those members of the Siska Nation.

In Toronto, retired Bishop Pearce Lacey passed away this week.

and in Newfoundland, Development and Peace’s guest speaker was denied a visitor’s visa, but the reasons given by Immigration Canada don’t sound right to D&P officials or the guest speaker.


Vatican Connections: Friday April 4, 2014

This week Pope Francis recognized as saints three people who can essentially be credited for founding the Church on the American continent: Francois de Laval, Marie of the Incarnation, and Jose de Anchieta. Francois de Laval was a French missionary who became the first Bishop of New France and laid the foundations for what is today Laval University. Marie of the Incarnation was a French Ursuline nun whose vocation took a somewhat winding road. She was married young, widowed, and when her son was 12 finally entered the convent. She is considered the “Mother of the Church” in Canada. Jose de Anchieta was a Spanish born, Jesuit missionary who was sent to Brazil where he founded what is today Sao Paolo. All three were builders of the church in the places they were sent, and serve as models of how the church and a local culture can interact positively. Laval and Marie de L’Incarnacion both learned about the culture and languages of the native people of New France. De L’incarnacion actually compiled an Algonquin dictionary and translated prayers and catechetical texts into Huron and Algonquin. The educational institutes both saints founded were open to both the European and Native people. Laval’s also turned his attention to the exploitation of the Native people being carried out by European merchants and pushed for a prohibition on the liquor trade. He also excommunicated anyone who dared sell or trade liquor with the Native people. Similarly, in Brazil Jose de Anchieta took such a great interest in the culture of the Native people of his region that today some consider him the first anthropologist. All three saints laid the foundations not just for the church, but for society on the American continent. Laval’s seminary and training schools evolved into what is today Laval University. De l’incarnacion’s Ursuline order was a key element in Quebec’s education system and De Anchieta established what is today the city of Sao Paolo. With these three saints it can safely be said that the American continent -like Europe – is built on a Christian foundation that should not be forgotten. *** Details were released this week about the events surrounding the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII. As previously reported, ticket will NOT be required to attend the Mass. The city of Rome has said it is expecting around 3 million people to come to Rome for the canonizations – far beyond the capacity of St. Peter’s Square and Via della Conciliazione. Jumbo screens will be set up at these location in Rome to allow everyone to watch the canonization: Via dei Fori Imperiali (Screens here will be installed on Good Friday and remain in place until after the canonizations. The area will also be pedestrian-only ) Piazza Navona Piazza del Popolo Rome’s subway will run 24 hours throughout the canonization weekend, and the main bus line from Termini station to St. Peter’s will also run 24 hours. Unlike the 2011 beatification of John Paul II, there will not be a vigil the night before the ceremony. There will be a youth gathering on April 22 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.    

Perspectives Daily: Tuesday April 1, 2014

Today on Perspectives, we look at one group of people in Virginia who rise with the sun to spend time with the Blessed Sacrament before they start their day. Pope Francis holds a two hour long meeting with the heads of Vatican departments, and we tell you about the April Fools jokes that caught church-watchers eyes today.

Coast to Coast: March 23 – 28, 2014


Here are this week’s stories from across the country:

In Montreal, one Jesuit-run school is fighting for the right to teach Quebec’s mandatory “ethics and religious culture” course, Jesuit-style.

In Toronto, the family health department at St. Michael’s Hospital takes on the health gap between high and low income patients.

Christians in Saskatoon are working together to sponsor refugees,

while Archdiocese of Toronto’s office for Refugees explains why its been difficult to accept the number of refugees they promised to sponsor

and in Vancouver one woman explains how she ended up hiking with JPII on the outskirts of Rome.


Vatican Connections: Friday, March 28, 2014

For most North American Vatican-watchers, this week was supposed to be about the first meeting between Pope Francis and President Barack Obama. Once again, Pope Francis diverted people’s attention and forced a substitution of headlines.

The Diocese of Rome hosted a Penitential Service on Friday evening, during which Pope Francis was scheduled to hear confessions for about an hour. While making his way to his assigned confessional, he stopped, waved off the master of ceremonies and appeared to say “wait a minute”, then made a bee-line across the aisle to another confessional where a priest was already seated, patiently waiting for penitents. With his trademark certainty, Pope Francis knelt on the penitent’s kneeler and proceeded to confess himself.

Vatican officials have said this was not in the schedule and no one, not even the priest who heard the pope’s confession, had advance warning.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Pope Francis would take the opportunity to avail himself of the services of a good confessor. He has publicly stated he goes to confession every two weeks, he has repeatedly encouraged the faithful to “never tire of asking God for forgiveness,” and has urged priests to make the confession experience less like a torture chamber and more of a transformative experience.  

Even for committed Catholics the Sacrament of Reconciliation can seem about as appealing as going to the dentist for root canal. The image of the pope stepping sure-footedly up to the penitent’s kneeler, will undoubtedly go a long way to shaking up that attitude.

The image of the man in the white cassock kneeling in front of a confessor, also shakes up the general idea of what a leader looks like: someone who can get in trenches and do the very things he asks his followers to do.

The full text of Pope Francis’ homily at the penitential service can be read on Vatican Radio.  

Son of God: Behind the Scenes of the Hit Film

son of god _ crop

Perhaps you saw the epic mini-series “The Bible” when it aired on the History Channel. After their success with the mini series, producers Roma Downey (Touched by and Angel) and Mark Burnett decided to go further and bring the life of Jesus to the big screen.

Following in the footsteps of Franco Zefferelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth”, Downey and Burnnett’s “Son of God” was shot on location in Morocco. Painstaking care was taken to faithfully bring to life the places of Jesus’ life.

This Friday, get a sneak peak behind the scenes of “Son of God” and see how it all came together: how Downey and Burnett “found” Jesus and the talented cast and crew who worked to bring the life and passion of Jesus to the big screen.

Tune in Friday, March 28 at 8:00pm ET to watch Son of God: Behind the Scenes.


Photo courtesy Motive Entertainment

Vatican Connections: March 21, 2014


The Vatican, the Anglican Communion, the Al Azhar Mosque and the Walk Free Foundation have joined forces to eliminate slavery and human trafficking by the end of the decade. The four parties launched the Global Freedom Network this week at the Vatican.

The network aims to get 162 governments commit to endorse it and the Global Fund to End Slavery, 50 multinationals to commit to investigating their supply chain for slavery, and G20 nations to adopt anti-slavery legislation.

The Walk Free Foundation, founded by Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest to end slavery, reports that 29.8 million people around the world are in situations of slavery.

Gina Dafalia, the policy and research manager for the Walk Free Foundation, told Salt + Light the foundation realized very early on there was limited data about the prevalence of slavery. The first major project the foundation undertook was putting together the Global Slavery Index, examining data from countries around the world to determine where slavery is most prevalent. The Global Slavery Index also ranks nations according to that prevalence.

Mauritus is the nation with the highest prevalence of slavery, while Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom are the nations with the lowest prevalence of slavery.

The Walk Free Foundation defines slavery as any situation where one person deprives another of his or her freedom, whether through debt bondage, forced marriage, sale and exploitation of children, forced labour, or trafficking.  

Dafalia said the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the Global Freedom Network, hopes to raise awareness about what constitutes slavery and where it is prevalent, spur businesses to eliminate it from their supply chains and get nations to adopt anti-slavery and anti-trafficking legislation.

Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences told Salt + Light the Holy See is participating in the Global Freedom Network as the result of a request by Pope Francis.

As part of the Holy See’s commitment to the Global Freedom Network the Academy for Social Sciences will be organizing meetings to study the best responses to the phenomena. The academy will also ask bishops conferences around the world to organize a similar meeting in order to raise awareness among their faithful about what constitutes slavery.

“Slavery is anything that takes away a person’s freedom, anyone who has to work in difficult conditions for nothing, the person who is forced to prostitute themselves, or has their passport taken away,” said Archbishop Sanchez Sorondo  

To learn more, visit the Global Freedom Network website

To read the Global Slavery Report and see where your country is ranked, visit the Walk Free Foundation website.




Perspectives Daily – Monday, March 17, 2014

Today on Perspectives: Fears rise in Ukraine about possible repression of religion, especially in light of a priest in Crimea being seized for questioning. Also, Pope Francis visits a parish in Rome, and CNS brings us a look at how Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s day.