Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pope's aide blasts media coverage of church
Sat Mar 31, 10:39 AM ET

A top aide to Pope Benedict has blasted the media for highlighting the Vatican's views on sex while maintaining a "deafening silence" about charity work done by thousands of Catholic organizations around the world.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as secretary of state is effectively the Vatican's prime minister, also accused the media of deliberately misinterpreting the Pope's speeches, especially his Regensburg address last September which angered Muslims.

"We face an extremely grave problem. The church's messages are subject to a type of manipulation and falsification by some western media," Bertone said in an interview with Le Figaro Magazine published in Paris on Saturday.

"I see a fixation by some journalists on moral topics, such as abortion and homosexual unions, which are certainly important issues but absolutely do not constitute the thinking and work of the church," he said.

"Why this deafening silence?" he asked. "We have to say the press does not write much about the social and charity work of thousands of Catholic organizations around the world."
Bertone said journalists had twisted the Pope's Regensburg address -- in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor linking Muslims and violence -- into a speech on Islam rather than the discussion on the role God played in society.

"Pope Benedict's thoughts were neatly blacked out," he said. "Commentators who take phrases out of context in a misleading extrapolation are exercising their trade dishonestly."
He said the German-born Pontiff had made clear in Regensburg that he wanted "a healthy confrontation" with Islam and that several Muslim thinkers had welcomed his invitation to dialogue.

Bertone has been one of the church's harshest critics of Dan Brown's popular novel The Da Vinci Code. In the interview he also took aim at "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," a new film claiming that archaeologists have found the tomb of Jesus and his family and indications that Mary Magdelene, one of his followers in the gospels, was his wife.

According to the Bible, Jesus never married and rose bodily from the dead after his crucifixion.
"This is a strategy against the church and the divine figure of Christ," he said. "These campaigns try to sap the faith of Christian people and the trust the faithful have in the church."

The apocryphal gospels used as sources for popular books and films were not new discoveries but well-known books written a century or two after the original gospels, he said.

"Authors who try to sow confusion between these two different sources profit from religious ignorance," he said.

From Reuters News Services

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Pope criticises EU for excluding God
By Philip PullellaSat Mar 24, 3:18 PM ET

Pope Benedict strongly criticized the European Union on Saturday for excluding a mention of God and Europe's Christian roots in declarations marking the 50th anniversary of its founding.
In a toughly-worded speech to European bishops, Benedict said Europe was committing a form of "apostasy of itself" and was thus doubting its own identity.

The Pope, who like his predecessor John Paul often calls for a mention of God and Christianity in the European Constitution, said leaders could not exclude values that helped forge the "very soul" of the continent.

"If on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome the governments of the union want to get closer to their citizens, how can they exclude an element as essential to the identity of Europe as Christianity, in which the vast majority of its people continue to identify," he said.
"Does not this unique form of apostasy of itself, even before God, lead it (Europe) to doubt its very identity?"

Apostasy is a total desertion of or departure from one's religion.

One of the Pope's compatriots, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, aims to relaunch the EU constitution and last month made a plea for the bloc to include references to Christian roots.
Plans to include such a reference in the original EU treaty, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, were blocked by French President Jacques Chirac.

Merkel, as holder of the EU's rotating presidency, is now in the process of reviving the constitution. Comments from Merkel, the daughter of a pastor, have encouraged religious leaders around Europe to redouble efforts to modify the constitution.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said he had pushed for inclusion of Catholic roots in the document but that the main task ahead for Catholics was to carry on a dialogue with religions like Islam and Judaism.

But in another sign of disagreement between Europe's leaders, the conservative European People's Party included religious roots in its anniversary declaration, in contrast to the general EU declaration to be adopted on Sunday.

"Europe's Judeo-Christian roots and common cultural heritage, as well as the classic and humanist history of Europe and the achievements of the period of enlightenment, are the foundation of our political family," said the statement, adopted at a meeting attended by Merkel and other EU leaders.

Pope Benedict warned the bloc was headed up a slippery slope of indifference and said it could not deny its "historical, cultural and moral identity" that Christianity helped forge.

"A community that builds itself without respecting the true dignity of the human being, forgetting that each person is created in the image of God, ends up doing good for no one," he said.

Pope: Europe losing faith in its future
By FRANCES D'EMILIO, Associated Press WriterSat Mar 24, 2:58 PM ET

Europe appears to be losing faith in its own future, Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday, warning against "dangerous individualism" on a continent where many people are having fewer children.
"One must unfortunately note that Europe seems to be going down a road which could lead it to take its leave from history," the pontiff told bishops in Rome for ceremonies to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, a major step toward the creation of today's European Union.

Benedict said he was concerned about Europe's "demographic profile" — though he did not describe the trends that have alarmed the continent for decades.

In countries like Italy, where many married couples have one or no children, the population is expected to shrink dramatically in a generation or two unless fertility rates quickly increase.
Benedict expressed concern that Europe's population trends, "besides putting economic growth at risk, can also cause enormous difficulties for social cohesion, and, above all, favor dangerous individualism, careless about the consequences for the future."

"You could almost think that the European continent is in fact losing faith in its own future," Benedict said.

A recent Eurostat survey showed Poland's fertility rate to be the lowest in the EU, at 1.23 children per woman.

Sociologists and economists blame the economy, particularly the unemployment rate — at 14.9 percent the highest in the EU. Worried about losing their jobs, many women in Poland put off having children, often until it is too late.

Earlier this month, Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski proposed a new program of tax exemptions and support for working mothers in the hope of encouraging births and ensuring that Poles "continue as a nation."

Italy's fertility rate steadily plunged to a low of 1.25 children per women of childbearing age in 2001, with the last few years seeing a small turnaround, mainly due to births to immigrants.
Italian experts cite Italian's desire for an easier lifestyle, but they also blame shortages of day care centers, expensive housing and a sluggish job market which sees many Italians living at home until well into their 30s as reasons for the country's relatively few children.

Antonio Golini, an Italian demographer, told The Associated Press recently that unless the retirement age is raised, Italy will have more people drawing pensions than it will have workers in 2050.

Spain also has a low fertility rate, while France, with family friendly policies such as cheap day care and generous parental leave, has experienced a baby boom.

France had more babies in 2006 than in any year in the last quarter-century, capping a decade of rising fertility that has bucked Europe's graying trend. Its fertility rate in 2006 was 2.0 children per woman.

A rate of 2.1 children per woman is considered the minimum necessary to keep a population from shrinking.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Good Works and Faith Are Found Everywhere.
Don King Does a Very Good Thing

Don King in Front Row for Pope
By DANIELA PETROFFThe Associated Press
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; 11:28 AM

VATICAN CITY -- Don King got a front row seat at Pope Benedict XVI's general audience Wednesday. The usually flamboyant boxing promoter, wearing a blue suit with his preferred high hair style primly flattened for the papal event, gave the pope a green-and-gold boxing belt and a handwritten letter asking for prayers for people ranging from President Bush to the world's sick and aged.

"I was thrilled to be there. It was a deep spiritual experience," King told The Associated Press after the two-hour open-air audience in St. Peter's Square.

In Rome to discuss possible boxing matches in Italy, King had expressed his wish to meet with the pope.

"Faith is the thing that carries us through," the 75-year-old King said as he walked through St. Peter's Square, waving Italian and Vatican flags and signing autographs.

Don King Productions spokesman Alan Hopper said the Vatican visit was arranged through a boxer King represents _ Italian super welterweight champion Luca Messi, whose brother Alessandro is a Catholic priest.

King was seated in the front row of a special section on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica. He was able to hand the pope the gift and the letter as Benedict drove slowly by in an open jeep at the end of the audience.

King, who spent four years in prison for manslaughter, had hoped for a personal meeting with Benedict. Very few nonchurch people, however, receive private time with the pope during his Wednesday audiences.

Before arriving in Rome, King toured Messi's hometown, Bergamo. During the visit to the northern Italian city, King began a fundraising campaign to restore the city's church of St. Mary Major, which includes frescoed paintings on the walls of a pre-existing church buried underneath.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gospel rehabilitating Judas is published in Rome

British novelist Jeffrey Archer and Vatican theologist Francis Maloney on Tuesday launched a book defending Judas' betrayal of Jesus at a papal institution in Rome.

"The Gospel According to Judas" claims the disciple acted over concern that Jesus' failure to chase the Romans out of Jerusalem would lead to the destruction of the Jewish people.

Its publication follows last year's discovery of an ancient Coptic manuscript known as the Gospel of Judas, which maintains that Jesus actually asked his disciple to betray him.

It was launched at the Vatican-funded Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome two days before its worldwide distribution on Thursday.

The institute's rector, Father Stephen Pisano, was quoted by the Ansa agency as saying he hoped the book would encourage more people to read the Bible.

The book has been written from the point of view of Judas' son, Benjamin Iscariot. As well as describing the betrayal, it rejects claims the disciple later killed himself.

Archer, a successful novelist who was a conservative party lawmaker before being jailed for four years for perjury in 2001, said in January that the book was "a gospel, not a short story and not a novel".

Australian scholar Maloney is an expert on Christian texts and a member of the Vatican's International Theological Commission, where he rubbed shoulders with Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007



March 14, 2007 -- WE hope someone is videotaping when high-haired boxing promoter Don King has an audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on March 21.

King, who wore a floor-length white mink coat to President Ronald Reagan's first inauguration, is a larger-than-life character who started out in Cleveland, Ohio, as a numbers racketeer who was accused of killing two men. The first incident was deemed self-defense, but the second was manslaughter - which got King four years in prison.

"I am standing in the need of prayer," King told Page Six yesterday from Paris. "I'm going to ask the pontiff to pray for all of us. He has a direct line to the man who sits high, looks low and keeps his eye on the sparrow." That "man" would be Jesus, King informed us.

While King is a Baptist, not a Roman Catholic, the ecumenical entrepreneur doesn't believe there should be any quibbling between denominations. "The thing is, we're all going before the man on high on Judgment Day."

Quoting Isaiah, King said, "Let justice roll down like water, and righteousness flow like a mighty stream."

The papal meeting came about through Luca Messi, a super-middleweight King put in a big fight in Chicago two years ago. Unfortunately, Messi lost. "I'm going to try and help him again," King vowed. But Messi has a brother who is a priest and who agreed to set up an audience with the pope.

King is in Paris promoting Saturday's sold-out rematch of last year's dramatic slugfest at Madison Square Garden between O'Neil Bell and Jean-Marc Mormeck. Then, King will be honored at a festival in Bergamo, Italy, the Messi brothers' hometown, before his pilgrimage to Rome.

King, who often wears crazy clothes and waves Old Glory, owns three large, diamond-encrusted crucifixes - "for the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost." But asked what he'll wear to his meeting with Benedict XVI, King humbly replied, "I'll see what the protocol is."

The bombastic orator seems prepared to play second fiddle to His Holiness and pay every respect to the Vicar of Christ. "I am going to ask the pontiff for world peace. I will be prepared to kiss his ring."