- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2010


Pope takes a break, visits Turin Shroud

TURIN | Pope Benedict XVI took a break Sunday from dealing with the clerical sex abuse scandal to pray before the Shroud of Turin, the linen bearing an image of a crucified man that some believe is Christ’s burial cloth and others dismiss as a medieval fake.

Benedict did not definitively declare the shroud that of Jesus Christ but said it “wrapped the remains of a crucified man in full correspondence with what the Gospel tells us of Jesus.”

In a meditation delivered after praying for four minutes before the shroud, the pope said the relic should be seen as a photographic document of the “darkest mystery of faith” — that of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection.

The 14-foot-long, 3.5-foot-wide cloth has gone on public display for the first time since the millennium celebrations and a subsequent 2002 restoration. Kept in a bulletproof, climate-controlled case in Turin’s cathedral, the shroud has drawn nearly 2 million reservations from pilgrims and tourists eager to spend three to five minutes of viewing.


Jewish Europeans criticize Israel

PARIS | More than 3,000 Jewish Europeans, including prominent intellectuals, have signed a petition speaking out against Israeli settlement policies and warning that systematic support for the Israeli government is dangerous.

The petition’s signatories include French philosophers Bernard-Henri Levy and Alain Finkielkraut, as well as Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Greens leader in the European Parliament.

Backers — who compare their goals to those of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel Jewish lobbying group in the U.S. — plan to present their position at a news conference at the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday.

Supporters aim to build a European movement that is “committed to the state of Israel and critical of the current choices of its government.”

Israeli columnist Yossi Sarid, a former Cabinet minister identified with Israel’s dovish peace movement, praised the initiative in an Op-Ed published in the Haaretz daily Sunday.

“These are people who seize every opportunity to defend Israel publicly and remain faithful to it,” he wrote. “But even their patience is running out and their hearts are filled with sincere concern.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment because the initiative is not government-sponsored.


Merkel ally seeks European burqa ban

BERLIN | A senior German member of the European Parliament and ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel called Sunday for all of Europe to follow Belgium’s lead and ban the full Islamic veil or burqa in public.

“I wish that Germany — and all of Europe — would also outlaw the wearing of the burqa in all its forms,” said Silvana Koch-Mehrin, European Parliament vice president and a member of Germany’s Free Democrats, Mrs. Merkel’s junior coalition partners since elections in 2009.

“The burqa is a massive attack on women’s rights, it is a mobile prison,” she said in an Op-Ed piece in the mass-circulation German newspaper Bild.

Belgians in the lower house of parliament last week voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill banning clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified, including the full-face niqab and burqa.

All governing parties and the opposition agreed on the move — most for security reasons linked to the fact that people cannot be recognized while wearing the clothing.

The ban is the first in the 27-nation European Union. It will not enter force for weeks and has to pass the upper house, and may have to be re-examined if early elections are called as Belgium battles a political crisis.

The ban was widely criticized by rights groups and Muslims, with Human Rights Watch saying the ban is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.


Order accepts papal takeover

The scandal-plagued Legionaries of Christ said it has accepted the pope’s decision to appoint a personal delegate to lead and reform the order after revelations that its founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least one child.

In a statement posted on its website late Saturday, the Legionaries said its members “embrace his provisions with faith and obedience.”

The statement was issued after the Vatican announced a crackdown on the conservative order once championed by Rome, saying a papal envoy would take over and reform it and that a special commission would study its founding constitutions.

The decisions were made after five Vatican investigators reported back to Pope Benedict XVI about their eight-month global inquiry into the order after its late founder was thoroughly discredited by revelations of his double life.

In announcing the papal takeover, the Vatican excoriated the Rev. Marcial Maciel for creating a “system of power” built on silence, deceit and obedience that enabled him to lead a double life “devoid of any scruples and authentic sense of religion” and allowed him to abuse boys unchecked.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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