Pope John Paul II to be beatified May 1

FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2010 file photo made available by the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper, Pope Benedict XVI prays before the tomb of Pope John Paul II for the traditional November 2nd All Soul's day prayers, in the Vatican Grottoes. Evidence is mounting that the pope will soon approve the miracle needed to beatify Pope John Paul II. On Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011, workers began restoring a mosaic near the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica where John Paul's remains are expected to be moved for better public access once he takes the key step toward possible sainthood. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, File)


VATICAN CITY, Jan 14 (KATAKAMI / AP)  — The pope on Friday signed off on the miracle needed to beatify Pope John Paul II, and set May 1 as the date to honor one of the most beloved popes of all times as a model of saintliness for the church.

Pope Benedict XVI said in a decree that a French nun’s recovery from Parkinson’s disease was miraculous, the last step needed for beatification. A second miracle is needed for the Polish-born John Paulto be made a saint.

The May 1 ceremony, which Benedict himself will celebrate, is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Rome — a major morale boost for a church reeling from a wave of violence against Christians and fallout from the clerical sex abuse scandal.

“This is a huge and important cause of joy,” Warsaw Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz told reporters at his residence in the Polish capital.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul’s longtime secretary and friend, expressed “huge thanks” to Benedict for the decree. “We are happy today,” he said.

Benedict put John Paul on the fast track to possible sainthood just weeks after he died in 2005, responding to the chants of “Santo Subito!” or “Sainthood immediately!” that erupted during his funeral.

Benedict waived the typical five-year waiting period before the process could begin, but he insisted that the investigation into John Paul’s life be thorough so as to not leave any doubts about his virtues.

John Paul’s beatification will nevertheless be the fastest on record, coming just over six years after his death and beating out Mother Teresa’s then-record beatification in 2003 by a few days.

The last remaining hurdle in John Paul’s case concerned the approval by Vatican-appointed panels of doctors and theologians, cardinals and bishops that the cure of French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, was a miracle due to the intercession of the late pope.

The nun has said she felt reborn when she woke up two months after John Paul died, cured of the disease that had made walking, writing and driving a car nearly impossible. She and her fellow sisters of the Congregation of Little Sisters of Catholic Maternity Wards had prayed to John Paul, who also suffered from Parkinson’s.

On Friday, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre said John Paul was and continues to be an inspiration to her because of his defense of the unborn and because they both had Parkinson’s.

John Paul “hasn’t left me. He won’t leave me until the end of my life,” she told French Catholic TV station KTO and Italy’s state-run RAI television.

Wearing a white habit and wire-rimmed glasses, she appeared in good health and showed no signs of tremors or slurred speech which are common symptoms of Parkinson’s.

John Paul II did everything he could for life, to defend life,” she said. “He was very close to the smallest and weakest. How many times did we see him approach a handicapped person, a sick person?”

Last year, there were some questions about whether the nun’s original diagnosis was correct. But in a statement Friday, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints said Vatican-appointed doctors had “scrupulously” studied the case and determined that her cure had no scientific explanation.

Once he is beatified, John Paul will be given the title “blessed” and can be publicly venerated. Many people, especially in Poland, already venerate him privately, but the ceremony will make it official.

Born in Wadowice, Poland, in 1920, Karol Wojtyla was the youngest pope in 125 years and the first non-Italian in 455 years when he was elected pope in 1978.

He brought a new vitality to the Vatican, and quickly became the most accessible modern pope, sitting down for meals with factory workers, skiing and wading into crowds to embrace the faithful.

His Polish roots nourished a doctrinal conservatism — opposition to contraception, euthanasia, abortion and women priests — that rankled liberal Catholics in the United States and Western Europe.

But his common touch also made him a crowd-pleasing superstar whose 26-year papacy carried the Roman Catholic Church into Christianity’s third millennium and emboldened eastern Europeans to bring down the communist system.

He survived an assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square in 1981 — and then forgave the Turk who had shot him.

He was the most traveled pope ever, visiting more than 120 nations during the third-longest papacy and covering distance equal to nearly 1 1/2 trips to the moon.

After suffering for years from the effects of Parkinson’s disease, he died in his Vatican apartment on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84.

While adored by Catholics, John Paul did not escape scrutiny about the clerical abuse scandal which came to light in the final years of his papacy. Many of the thousands of sexual abuse cases that emerged in Europe and beyond last year concerned crimes or cover-ups that occurred under his watch.

Vatican officials have said there was nothing in John Paul’s record that called into question his path to beatification.

Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, one of the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organizations, noted that John Paul’s beatification process is not a “score card on his administration of theHoly See.”

Rather, he said, it’s a statement about his personal sanctity since beatification is way of holding up Catholics as models for the faithful.

“Pope John Paul’s life is precisely such a model because it was lived beautifully and with love, respect and forgiveness for all,” Anderson told the AP in an e-mail. “We saw this in the way he reached out to the poor, the neglected, those of other faiths, even the man who shot him. He did all of this despite being so personally affected by events of the bloodiest century in history.”

Dziwisz, John Paul’s most trusted friend who seemed at times impatient with the slow pace of the process, gave thanks on Friday from Krakow, where he is archbishop.

“We are happy that this process came to an end, that what people asked for — “Santo Subito” — was fulfilled,” Dziwisz said. “I express great joy on behalf of the entire diocese of Krakow — and I think I am also authorized to express this on behalf of all of Poland.”  (*)


British to renew Australian defence ties

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague


Jan 14 (KATAKAMI.COM / THE AGE.COM.AU) — British Foreign Secretary William Hague says his nation has neglected its relationship with Australia during the past two decades.

Mr Hague will join UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox, as well as Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith, in Sydney next Tuesday for the third Australia-UK ministerial talks, known as AUKMIN.

It will be the first visit to Australia by British cabinet ministers since David Cameron’s government took office in May.

Mr Hague said on his video blog Britain needed a strong relationship with “dynamic economies” such as Australia and New Zealand, which will host the two ministers late next week.

But the previous Blair and Brown Labor governments had neglected the relationship, with the last foreign secretary to visit being Douglas Hurd in 1994.

“I will be the first (British) foreign secretary for nearly 20 years to go to Australia,” Mr Hague said.

“So I think there has been a little bit of ministerial neglect that we are going to put right.”

Mr Hague said his top priority was the mission in Afghanistan, which involves 9500 British and 1550 Australian troops.

“Right at the top of the list is our work in Afghanistan to improve security and hopefully to bring to Afghan leadership a political process alongside the military work to bring lasting security and stability,” he said.

The talks also will focus on three other issues: changing power dynamics in Asia, particularly China; strategic cooperation, including intelligence sharing, cyberspace and the relationship with the US; and global counter-terrorism.

There is also expected to be a discussion over lunch on national security structures, the Middle East and Iran and nuclear proliferation.

The meeting is not expected to approve a new cooperation treaty but a number of defence documents will be signed, sources close to the talks say.

It will be the first AUKMIN to be held in Australia, with the previous one held in Leeds in November 2008. (*)


Photostream : Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro meets Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa

Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro (R), accompanied by his Japanese counterpart Toshimi Kitazawa (L), reviews the honor guard prior to their talks at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo on January 14, 2011. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro (R) reviews the honor guard at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo on January 14, 2011. Purunomo held talks with his Japanese counterpart Toshimi Kitazawa. (Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro (R) shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Toshimi Kitazawa (L) prior to their talks at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo on January 14, 2011. (Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

Photostream : British Prime Minister David Cameron meets French Prime Minister Francois Fillon

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets his French counterpart Francois Fillon as he arrives at number 10 Downing Street in London January 13, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets his French counterpart Francois Fillon on the steps of number 10 Downing Street in London January 13, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) speaks with his French counterpart Francois Fillon at 10 Downing Street in London January 13, 2011. Britain will not be drawn into new mechanisms to help protect the euro, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday. REUTERS/Peter Macdiarmid/Pool

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon (L) and British Prime Minister David Cameron attend a joint press conference at 10 Downing Street in central London, on January 13, 2011. Britain refuses to join any new funding mechanisms to prop up the eurozone, Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday as his French counterpart Francois Fillon visited the country. "A strong and successful eurozone is in Britain's interest, we want the countries of the eurozone to sort out the difficulties and the problems that they have," he told a joint press conference with Fillon at Downing Street. (Photo by LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

PM David Cameron welcomes French Prime Minister to Number 10

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) attends a news conference with his French counterpart Francois Fillon at 10 Downing Street in London January 13, 2011. Britain will not be drawn into new mechanisms to help protect the euro, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday. REUTERS/Peter Macdiarmid/Pool

London, Jan 13 (KATAKAMI.COM / NUMBER10.GOV.UK) — Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed French Prime Minister Francois Fillon to Number 10.

The PM and his French counterpart held bilateral talks before a joint press conference.

Discussions focused on economic growth, the EU budget and the eurozone.

During the press conference, Mr Cameron said that Britain would be a “helpful partner” in assisting the eurozone but ruled out joining the euro.

The PM said:

“A strong and successful eurozone is in Britain’s interests, we want the countries of the eurozone to sort out the difficulties they have and we won’t stand in the way as we do that…Indeed, we will be a helpful partner in making sure that happens.

“But let me again be clear – that does not mean that Britain should be drawn into new mechanisms or new procedures or have to give up new powers.”

Mr Cameron said he accepted that members of the single currency needed to co-ordinate their fiscal policies.

“We understand that if you are in a single currency you do need to take steps to better co-ordinate and harmonise some of the things you do together.

“Indeed that was one of the reasons I didn’t want to join the euro in the first place, because I didn’t want that to happen.”

Earlier today, Mr Cameron held a meeting with European Council President Herman van Rompuy where talks also focused on the European economy. (*)

A regular meeting of the Anti-Corruption Council took place in the Kremlin

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (R) chairs a meeting of the presidential Anti-Corruption Council at the Kremlin in Moscow January 13, 2011. REUTERS/Dmitry Astakhov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

Transcript : Medvedev’s opening remarks at meeting of the Council for Countering Corruption

Moscow, Jan 13 (KATAKAMI.COM / KREMLIN.RU) — In his opening remarks, Dmitry Medvedev outlined some of the most pressing challenges and issued relevant instructions.

The President noted that it is vital to expand civil society’s involvement in all anti-corruption initiatives. In addition, Mr Medvedev instructed the regional heads to inform the public about issues discussed at the recently established coordination meetings.

Another task is to check the accuracy and completeness of officials’ income declarations and exposure of those who provide false information. It is important to analyse the effectiveness of the financial information disclosure system. The President also instructed the Federal Taxation Service and the Prosecutor General’s Office to check the accuracy of officials’ income declarations within three months.

Dmitry Medvedev stressed the need for speedy adoption of a law directed against front companies, which were previously used for illegal cash-out transactions but now have become a channel for receiving bribes by officials. The individuals who use such firms and those who establish them must be brought to justice. The President instructed the Government to expedite the drafting of the bill and submit it to the State Duma by February 1, 2011.

Dmitry Medvedev also noted the importance of anti-corruption monitoring of international projects that will take place on Russian territory, such as the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the APEC summit. Control over spending of state funds for these events requires the collaboration of the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Accounts Chamber, the Interior Ministry and other federal agencies.

During the meeting heads of law enforcement agencies reported to the President on the results of the 2010 anti-corruption efforts. (*)

Medvedev urges to perfect officials' income declaration system

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, speaks at a meeting to discuss steps to fight corruption in the Kremlin in Moscow, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service)

MOSCOW, January 13 (KATAKAMI.COM / Itar-Tass) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gave three months to the Federal Tax Service and the Prosecutor General’s Office to check the authenticity of income declarations submitted by officials.

“I give you three months, so that we know, who violates what, by the end of the declaration campaign,” the head of state stated at a meeting of the Council for Countering Corruption on Thursday.

Medvedev underlined that he was awaiting proposals on responsibility for unauthentic information in income declarations.

In this connection, Medvedev drew attention to income declarations of Moscow-based officials. “Sergei Semyonovich, there’re many officials in Moscow,” he said addressing city mayor Sobyanin.

In his opinion, the mandatory filling in of an income declaration is a good tradition, because it disciplines a person, making him realize there the declared income should be consistent with real sources of earnings.

At the same time, the president acknowledged that the declaration system is imperfect and that a wealth of methods are available to hide incomes from declaration.

“It’s not bad as the fist move, because everybody now understands that declaration is a must as elsewhere in the world,” he said.

Not only government bodies should check the authenticity of information (the State Tax Service and other bodies), but also a high element of public control must be present. “Public organizations, such as the Public Chamber should vigorously use their opportunities for public control over officials’ incomes,” Medvedev went on to say.

He warned that this should not become “a witch hunt,” or be exploited as a method to “square political accounts.”

“So let the presidential administration think in 2011 about officials’ income declarations by analysing the work done, and mull the effectiveness of the whole system of giving such information,” Medvedev said.

The income declaration system must be perfected: if it has loopholes, they should be eliminated to make headway.  (*)

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announces troop boost for floods

Prime Minister Julia Gillard (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Jan 14, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / SBS.COM.AU) — The number of defence force personnel involved in the Queensland flood operation will be doubled to 1200, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says.

“This will be the biggest deployment for a natural disaster since Cyclone Tracy,” Ms Gillard said at Amberley air base west of Brisbane on Friday.

Ms Gillard said, after talks with Defence Minister Stephen Smith and military chiefs, “Now is the right time to dramatically increase the number of defence personnel who are working in Queensland to assist with the Queensland floods.”

The prime minister on Friday spoke with ADF personnel at the air base, ahead of a visit to the flood-ravaged Lockyer Valley west of Brisbane.

“It’s so important at this time that townships that have been isolated can still get vital supplies,” she said. (*)

Tucson says farewell to youngest shooting victim

Brother Dallas Green wipes away a tear while seated next to his father John Green and mother Roxanna Green during the funeral service for their daughter, nine-year-old mass shooting victim Christina-Taylor Green, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Tucson, January 13, 2011. (Photo : Reuters / Greg Bryan )



TUCSON, Arizona, Jan 13 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – Hundreds of people gathered to say farewell on Thursday to a bright 9-year-old who loved to dance and play baseball, but was gunned down when she went to learn about politics from her congresswoman.

Christina Green was the youngest victim of a shooting spree last Saturday that claimed six lives and left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords battling for her life. Her funeral was the first to be held.

Hundreds of mourners including a group of leather-clad bikers and several of Christina’s classmates began lining both sides of the road outside St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church ahead of her funeral at 1 p.m.. A church bell signaling noon broke the quiet as mourners waited for the service.

A hearse passes people lining the street as it arrives at the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church for the funeral for nine-year-old Christina Green in Tucson, January 13, 2011. (Photo : Reuters / Mike Segar )

Family members escorted the small wooden coffin into the church in silence for the service, which was closed to the news media. They filed out to the solemn strains of a piper.

“She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age,” President Barack Obama said in an emotional address to thousands of people crammed into a Tucson sports stadium to mourn on Wednesday evening.

“I want to live up to her expectations, I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it, I want America to be as good as Christina imagined it,” he said to applause and roars of approval.

The lively youngster was born on September 11 2001, the day of suicide aircraft attacks on New York.

A stars and stripes flag pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center in the days after Christina’s birth was brought in to hang between two fire truck ladders.

The top student, who was elected to her class council, was the granddaughter of former pro baseball manager Dallas Green.

She loved dancing, gymnastics and swimming, and hoped to be the first woman to play major-league baseball.

Nine-year-old Dante Mitchell, classmate of nine-year-old Christina Green, holds a stuffed bear he brought to her funeral in Tucson, January 13, 2011. (Photo : Reuters / Eric Thayer )


It was the first funeral for William Moody, a 9-year-old classmate of Christina’s who was with his grandmother, Lynnette Moody. It was not the funeral he expected to attend first, he said.

“It’s like my grandma said, she thought my first funeral would be for an old person who had a full life,” he said. “It’s weird not having her in school.”

The Bishop of Tucson, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, gave a blessing inside the church, as mourners offered each other consolation outside.

“We’ve all been affected in Tucson,” said Maggie Parisoff, 35, a crisis counselor roving through the crowd outside the church to offer help to anyone in need.

Her funeral will be followed on Friday by that of federal judge John Roll, who was gunned down alongside her after he called in at the “Congress on the corner” event to see Giffords, who was a friend.

Police arrested a 22-year-old college dropout, Jared Lee Loughner, for the killings.

He made his first court appearance on Monday, and faces five federal charges, including the attempted assassination of Giffords.

The congresswoman remains in critical condition in hospital.

Giffords opened her eyes on Wednesday, during a visit by two close friends from the U.S. Congress. (*)

NASA Names Backup Shuttle Commander for Gifford’s Husband

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband, space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, are seen in an undated handout photo provided by her Congressional campaign, January 8, 2011. Giffords was hit in a shooting on Saturday at a public event of the Congresswoman's at a Tucson, Arizona grocery store that also injured at least nine other people, hospital and law enforcement sources said. REUTERS/Giffords for Congress/PK Weis/Handout

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Jan 13 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — The U.S. space agency says it has appointed a backup commander for its upcoming April mission to the International Space Station, while the mission’s original leader tends to his wife, who was shot in the head Saturday.

In a statement Thursday, Astronaut Mark Kelly said he was “hopeful” he would be able to rejoin the mission with space shuttle Endeavor.

It is currently slotted as the final mission for NASA’s 30-year shuttle program.

Kelly’s wife, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is recovering after being shot in an apparent assassination attempt.

NASA said Kelly remains in charge of the mission, but said designating a backup would allow the mission crew and support team to continue training in Kelly’s absence.

Meanwhile, NASA also announced new launch dates for the two remaining shuttle missions, after several delays prompted by problems with space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank.

NASA announced it plans to launch Discovery on February 24 and said it is targeting April 19 for Endeavor’s launch.

NASA cancelled a planned launch attempt in early November when a hydrogen leak led them to discover cracks in some of the metal supports of Discovery’s fuel tank.

Although these are the final scheduled missions, NASA has said another flight could be added mid-year, before the fleet is set to retire. (*)


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