Vatican Media Watch

Secret Police Spied on Cardinal Ratzinger

THE TIMES OF LONDON, Oct. 3 — At least eight East German communist agents were ordered to report on the private life and political views of the future Pope Benedict XVI during the Cold War years, according to his secret police files published in Berlin, The Times of London reported.

It was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's deep anti-communism and his profound suspicion of atheist states that made him a target of the East German Stasi. Their suspicions seem to be confirmed by his long friendship with Karol Wojtyla, the Polish cardinal and future Pope John Paul II.

The release of the Stasi documents came at a particularly poignant moment for the Pope as he opened his first bishops’ synod since his elevation to the papacy last April.

In his opening remarks, the Holy Father said, “A tolerance that allows God as a private opinion but which excludes him from public life, from the reality of the world and our lives, is not tolerance but hypocrisy.”

In a comment that could just as well have been directed at the East German spymasters who pried into his life, he said: “When man makes himself the only master of the world, and master himself, justice cannot exist.”

Sony Apologizes for Blasphemous Advertisement

REUTERS, Oct. 1 — Sony has apologized for an Italian advertising campaign for its PlayStation game console that featured a young man wearing a crown of thorns with the slogan “Ten years of passion,” Reuters reported.

The ad shows a young man wearing what looks like a crown of thorns. The image recalls Mel Gibson's recent blockbuster movie, The Passion of the Christ. On closer inspection, the crown is decorated by thorn-like squares, crosses, triangles and circles — the characteristic symbols of the Playstation's joystick.

“This time they've gone too far,” said Antonio Sciortino, editor of Famiglia Cristiana (Christian Family), a mass-circulation Catholic weekly. He was quoted as saying in the Corriere della Sera newspaper, “If this had concerned Islam there would have been a really strong reaction.”

Cardinal Ersilio Tonini called it “an irreverent mockery. The advert displays a lack of taste which conceals a lack of respect. Kids shouldn't be induced into believing that the passion of Christ is a game,” Tonini said Sept. 30.

In a statement, Sony Computer Entertainment Italia expressed regret over the reaction to the ad. It acknowledged that the “spirit of the message was misunderstood” and said the campaign would not continue.

Benedict Inviting President Katsav to the Vatican

THE TIMES OF LONDON, Oct. 1 — Israel's president will visit the Pope at the Vatican next month in a move marking a new era of reconciliation between the Roman Catholic and Jewish faiths after centuries of hostility, The Times of London reported.

The state visit by Moshe Katsav to the Holy See Nov. 17 is unprecedented. “This is an historic event, the first such visit in 2,000 years; this is history in the making,” Oded Ben-Hur, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, said Sept. 30.

Archbishop Kevin McDonald, who is in charge of relations with other faiths for the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, said that the event was of great significance.

“The Vatican has always wanted to try and engage with religious questions separately,” he said. “In the context of relations with the state of Israel, there are political issues as well.

“Obviously the situation of Christians in the Holy Land and the Holy Places are important issues for the Holy See and these are things that the Holy See will want to discuss with the Israeli authorities.”