Media Watch

EU Non-Catholics Worry About Church Influence

EU OBSERVER, Jan. 12 — With the addition of strongly Catholic countries such as Poland to the growing European Union, secularists and some Protestants are expressing nervousness about Church influence.

In the online newspaper EU Observer, a Danish Protestant theologian warned that the Church might influence social policy.

Lene Sjørup told the paper:

“We need to know how religious values may influence politicians, the labor market, family policies and development politics in the enlarged EU.”

Sjørup pointed to the Church's central organization and dedication to infusing public policy with its values, noting that Protestant churches could not compete.

“The Catholic Church wants to preserve the traditional family, even though family patterns in Europe are much more with single mothers and registered partnerships,” she complained, also pointing to Church teaching on abortion, euthanasia and biotechnology as potential flash points.

Pope ‘Passion’ Comment Controversy Continues

THE NEW YORK TIMES, Jan. 19 — Media debate is continuing over the authenticity of the widely reported reaction of Pope John Paul II to Mel Gibson's upcoming film, The Passion of the Christ. The film focuses on Christ's final 12 hours.

Major papers and news services have cited the reported papal comment “it is as it was” as an endorsement of the film's faithfulness to the Gospel accounts of Christ's death and a refutation of charges of anti-Semitism.

But other news outlets, quoting highly placed Vatican sources, have disputed whether the remark was ever made.

Stung by organized attempts by Jewish groups to collect denunciations of the film — sometimes based on a stolen, outdated script — Gibson's film company has quietly screened the film, even before it was finished, to select religious audiences around the world, finally managing to get a videotape to the Pope himself in early December.

Now, though, fresh press conferences and news reports say that early accounts of the Pope's reaction that day reported what the Pope said out of context.

Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope's personal secretary, has told Catholic News Service that John Paul has indeed seen the film, but made no public pronouncement.

However, the paper also quoted an unnamed “prominent Catholic official close to the Vatican,” who said, “I have reason to believe — and I think — that the Pope probably said it,” not meaning the comment to be made public the way it was.

The Vatican Air Force

VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, Jan. 13 — Actually, there isn't a “Vatican Air Force” — it's really the Italian Air Force that accompanies Pope John Paul II on his trips outside Rome.

But on Jan. 13, the Pope thanked officials of the service's 31st Division, his personal escort, for “the dedication and commitment with which you have for years facilitated the ministry of the Successor of Peter.”

“In recent days,” the Holy Father continued, “the liturgy has invited us to contemplate Jesus, who became man and came among us. He is the light that illuminates and gives meaning to our existence; he is the Redeemer who brings peace to the world.”