- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2007

HAITI

Preval visits U.S. to meet with Bush

PORT-AU-PRINCE — President Rene Preval, who heads the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere, began his first official visit to the United States yesterday at the invitation of President Bush.

During his four-day visit, Mr. Preval is to meet with Mr. Bush tomorrow for talks including U.N. efforts to stabilize Haiti, as well as the fight against poverty and the illegal drug trade. In addition, the Haitian leader told Agence France-Presse: “I will have working meetings with members of the administration including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,” and the commerce and homeland security chiefs.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said last week that the Bush-Preval meeting would focus on U.N. attempts to bring stability to Haiti and on ways to bring prosperity to the Caribbean nation. Mr. Bush’s invitation was announced Thursday, a day before 22 Haitian emigrants died when their crowded boat capsized in shark-infested waters near the Turks and Caicos islands.

BRAZIL

Lula da Silva, pope to air social policy

SAO PAULO — President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said yesterday that he will discuss social policies with Pope Benedict XVI on the pontiff’s visit to Brazil this week and urge the Catholic Church to work more closely with the government to fight poverty.

Benedict is to arrive in Brazil tomorrow for a five-day visit, his first trip as pope to Latin America — a region that has nearly half the world’s Catholics. “I’m interested in discussing the social policies that we’re implementing in Brazil so that [the pope], as the most important person in the Catholic Church, can help disseminate these good policies around the world,” the president said in his weekly radio address.

Mr. Lula da Silva, a former union boss, campaigned in the late 1970s and early 1980s alongside Catholic leaders against Brazil’s military dictatorship, but has had touchy relations with the Catholic Church since becoming president in 2003.

VATICAN

Latin countries underrepresented

VATICAN CITY — Latin America, where nearly half of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics live, is underrepresented at the Vatican, whose hierarchy is dominated by European prelates.

Four Latin American countries figure among the world’s top 10 Catholic countries, starting with Brazil and its 134.2 million faithful, followed by Mexico (92.8 million), Colombia (39.8 million) and Argentina (35 million).

But the College of Cardinals, which advises the pope, has a mere 31 members from Latin America of its total 184 — fewer than one in five. European countries have 94 cardinals, of whom 37 are Italian. Only 18 of the Latin American cardinals are younger than 80 and thus eligible to vote for a future pope.

Weekly notes …

Day after day, cloistered Catholic nuns at a Brazilian monastery roll up thousands of tiny prayer scrolls credited with the miraculous powers of Friar Galvao, an 18th-century monk whom the pope will elevate to sainthood in Sao Paulo on Friday. “My 6-year-old girl suffers from leukemia, but I’m sure the pills of Friar Galvao will cure her,” said Conceicao Antunes, 35, a domestic worker who spent hours waiting for her snippet of printed rice paper. … Italy has assured the Brazilian government that former leftist militant Cesare Battisti is unlikely to spend the rest of his life in prison if Brazil grants its request for him to be extradited. Battisti, 52, was arrested in Rio de Janeiro in March after being on the run since a prison break in Italy 26 years ago.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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