Haiti debt relief bill clears US House

A man walks across a waterlogged makeshift tent camp after a recent heavy rain. (CNS/Reuters)

A bill calling for cancellation of Haiti’s $1.5 billion debt to world financial institutions has passed the U.S. House. The measure now goes before the U.S. Senate.

Passage comes as the U.S. and other countries of the world debate how to best assist Haiti’s recovery from January’s massive earthquake, which left more than 220,000 people dead and upwards of 1 million people homeless.

The bill, called Debt Relief for Earthquake Recovery in Haiti Act, H.R. 4573, was introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., shortly after the earthquake. It calls upon the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank to cancel a series of loans made to Haiti.

Waters, a longtime advocate for the impoverished Caribbean nation, said in a statement she was pleased by the House’s action. “Debt relief is essential for Haiti’s future,” she said.

Waters returned from Haiti just before the House vote and pledged to work on long-term housing needs for earthquake victims. With hundreds of thousands of people still living outside in large parts of the country near the capital of Port-au-Prince, the concern is to get adequate shelter to Haitians before the rainy season arrives in April.

Pope planning summer rest, study but no Alps

Pope Benedict in the Alps last year, after he broke his wrist. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI wants to spend his summer vacation resting and studying … not packing and moving.

The Vatican announced today that while the pope is very grateful for the invitations to return to the northern Italian Alps this summer, he’s decided to go straight to the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo in mid-July and stay in one place until September, when he goes to England and Scotland.

In the late 1980s Pope John Paul II, an avid hiker and skiier, began the modern papal practice of heading north for a Alpine vacation. Pope Benedict followed his lead in 2005-2009.

“But this year, he prefers to begin the summer period of rest and study without the need for further transfers,” the Vatican press office said.

Video on a day in the life of a priest

Fresh off last week’s post of a video story on a typical parish fish fry, The Catholic Spirit has posted this fun little homemade video on a day in the life of a priest, through the eyes of Father Nels Gjengdahl, a priest of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul.