Pope: Basilica bones belong to apostle St. Paul

Pope: Basilica bones belong to apostle St. Paul

Scientific tests prove bones housed in the Basilica of St. Paul in Rome are those of the apostle St. Paul himself, according to Pope Benedict XVI.

“Tiny fragments of bone” in the sarcophagus were subjected to carbon dating, showing they “belong to someone who lived in the first or second century,” the pope said in a homily carried on Italian television.

“This seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle St. Paul,” Benedict said in Sunday’s announcement.

The tomb also holds “traces of a precious linen cloth, purple in color and laminated with pure gold, and a blue colored textile with linen filaments,” the pope said.

The tests were carried out by inserting a probe into a small opening in the sarcophagus, “which had not been opened for many centuries,” the pontiff said. The probe “also revealed the presence of grains of red incense and traces of protein and limestone.”

Separately, archaeologists have uncovered an image of St. Paul which “could be considered the oldest icon of the apostle known to date,” the Vatican’s official newspaper reported Sunday.

The painting, in the St. Tecla Catacomb, is “among the oldest and best-defined figures from ancient Christianity,” according to the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, L’Osservatore Romano reported.

St. Paul is one of the most significant figures in Christianity. Originally a persecutor of early Christians, he became a follower of Jesus after seeing a vision on the road to Damascus, according to Christian tradition.

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” the vision of Jesus asks Paul, using the apostle’s birth name, in the Acts of the Apostles.

Saul then took the name Paul and became a missionary. His letters, or epistles, to early Christian communities around the Mediterranean form a significant portion of the New Testament.

Paul was beheaded by Roman authorities sometime between 65 and 67 A.D., according to the Catholic Church.

He was buried a few miles away, and when the Roman Empire stopped persecuting Christians some 250 years later, the Emperor Constantine had a basilica built over his grave.

It currently lies under a marble tombstone bearing the Latin inscription PAULO APOSTOLO MART (Apostle Paul, martyr), according to the Web site of the basilica. A papal altar stands over the tombstone, which is visible through a window-like opening, the Web site says.

Monday marks the end of a year of celebration in honor of the 2,000th anniversary of St. Paul’s birth. It also happens to be the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul.

Papal visit would not be welcome in wake of Ryan report

Papal visit would not be welcome in wake of Ryan report

POPE Benedict XVI is not entirely welcome here in the wake of the damning Ryan report, a survey found.

More than half of people surveyed do not want a second papal visit following the revelations in the report on child abuse.

An online survey by radio station Newstalk, in which 1,108 people took part, shows the scenes that greeted the late Pope John Paul II during the first papal visit 30 years ago are unlikely to be recreated.

Back in September 1979, schools and businesses shut as thousands of Catholics flocked to the Phoenix Park during the three-day tour of Ireland.

However, despite strong feeling about a papal visit, the survey showed that the Ryan report has had little impact on the public’s religious practices. Just 4pc said the report had changed their Mass-going habits.

In addition, 68pc of people said religious teaching in schools should not include details of clerical abuse.

Historic

There has been speculation that the Pope might come to Ireland this year to mark the 30th anniversary of the historic 1979 visit, but 52pc of the 1,108 surveyed between June 22 and June 25 said he should stay away.

Many interviewees in the internet poll felt he should apologise before a visit could take place, while others said that saying sorry would not make any difference.

“Until he condemns what happened and pays compensation for his vile colleagues’ actions, and helps this country prosecute them by handing over all documents in relation to abuse issues and the movement of priests, then he shouldn’t be allowed set foot in this country,” said one of the interviewees.

Another person said a visit might be an important gesture to reach out to the abused, but only if the perpetrators faced their guilt. Another said they had difficulty taking any authority from the Pope.

“I did not elect him; he is old, lives a sheltered life and does not have to worry about where his next meal is coming from,” he said. “I am not sure what he can do now to ease the victims’ suffering. The church is churning out ‘mea culpas’. I am not sure how his sorry would be any better.”

- Anne-Marie Walsh

Atheist Bus Campaign Draws Official Complaint

Atheist Bus Campaign Draws Official Complaint

A private citizen has filed a complaint with the Council of Ethics in Advertising over the atheist bus campaign, which has plastered buses in some cities with atheist slogans.

According to the petition, the cheery ad campaign for atheism is slanderous and breaches UN human rights treaties.

The chair of the Union of Freethinkers, Jussi Niemelä, denies the allegations.

“Our intention is in fact to promote human rights as an organisation advocating the equality of different belief systems,” says Niemelä.

The buses bearing controversial slogans, such as There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life or Enjoy your life as if it’s the only one you’ve got, will continue to stir discusson this week in the capital city region, Tampere and Turku.

The Council of Ethics in Advertising has acknowledged the complaint and says it will assess the matter at its August 19 meeting.

The Atheist Bus Campaign was launched across the UK on January 6, 2009, and now similarly-minded organisations in countries around the world have adopted the idea as well. Comedy writer/journalist Ariane Sherine initially started the campaign in response to evangelical Christian ads on London’s public transport, which sought to remind the public about Judgement Day.

Scientology leadership rife with physical violence, report says

Scientology leadership rife with physical violence, report says

Clearwater, Fla. — The leader of the Church of Scientology struck subordinates numerous times and set an example for physical violence among the tightly controlled religion’s management team, four former high-ranking executives told a newspaper for a story published Sunday.

The executives, who have since left the organization, told the St. Petersburg Times that they witnessed David Miscavige, chairman of the board that oversees the church, hit staff members dozens of times.

“It was random and whimsical. It could be the look on your face. Or not answering a question quickly. But it always was a punishment,” said Mike Rinder, who oversaw the church’s legal and media relations operations. Rinder said that he was struck many times by Miscavige and that he also hit others before leaving in 2007.

In a response to the paper, the church denied the allegations, saying that the four former executives’ statements were “absolute and total lies.” It called the claims an effort to tarnish Miscavige, who has led the church for more than two decades. A spokesman said Sunday that the church had provided documentation that the claims were false.

Marty Rathbun, who served on the church’s board and was a top lieutenant of Miscavige’s, said Miscavige often ordered him to attack others.

Tom De Vocht, who oversaw the church’s spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, estimated that during one three-year period, he saw Miscavige strike staffers as many as 100 times. De Vocht left in 2005.

De Vocht also participated, explaining to the newspaper how he rationalized his actions: “If I don’t attack I’m going to be attacked. It’s a survival instinct in a weird situation that no one should be in.”

Amy Scobee, a manager in California who helped build the church’s network of Celebrity Centres, said she witnessed numerous attacks before leaving in 2005 but was never hit herself and never saw any women attacked.

Monique Yingling, a church spokeswoman, said the four left because they had been demoted.

Church spokesman Tommy Davis told the newspaper that an internal investigation revealed that Rathbun — not Miscavige — was responsible for dozens of attacks before he left in 2004.

Sunday’s report was the first of a three-part series on the church.

The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology, founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve problems. It claims 10 million members worldwide, including celebrities Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

Devotees converge on Clearwater for the highest levels of the church’s training.

Milwaukee Group Seeks Fiery Alternative to Materials Challenge

Milwaukee Group Seeks Fiery Alternative to Materials Challenge

Life grows more interesting by the day for officials of the West Bend (Wis.) Community Memorial Library. After four months of grappling with an evolving challenge to young-adult materials deemed sexually explicit by area residents Ginny and Jim Maziarka, library trustees voted 9–0 June 2 to maintain the young-adult collection as is “without removing, relocating, labeling, or otherwise restricting access” to any titles. However, board members were made cognizant that same evening that another material challenge waited in the wings: Milwaukee-area citizen Robert C. Braun of the Christian Civil Liberties Union (CCLU) distributed at the meeting copies of a claim for damages he and three other plaintiffs filed April 28 with the city; the complainants seek the right to publicly burn or destroy by another means the library’s copy of Baby Be-Bop. The claim also demands $120,000 in compensatory damages ($30,000 per plaintiff) for being exposed to the book in a library display, and the resignation of West Bend Mayor Kristine Deiss for “allow[ing] this book to be viewed by the public.”

The unanimous vote rejecting the Maziarkas’ challenge came after trustees heard several dozen comments for and against restricting the materials, as well as being presented with opposing petitions: 700 signatures on the petition circulated by West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries, a group formed by the Maziarkas, and more than 1,000 on an anti-restriction petition from the newly formed West Bend Parents for Free Speech. Ironically, four of the trustees were denied reappointment in April as a rebuke from city council members for adhering to the library’s reconsideration process instead of complying immediately with the Maziarkas’ changing reconsideration requests. The trustees are serving until their successors are appointed.

Accusing the board of submitting to the will of the American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, Ginny Maziarka declared, “We vehemently reject their standards and their principles,” and characterized the debate as “a propaganda battle to maintain access to inappropriate material.” She cautioned that her group would let people know that the library was not a safe place unless it segregated and labeled YA titles with explicit content. However, after the meeting board President Barbara Deter emphasized that it was the couple’s “freedom of speech” to challenge any individual library holding, according to the June 3 Greater Milwaukee Today.

For the immediate future, West Bend officials will be dealing with the CCLU’s legal claim. Describing the YA novel by celebrated author Francesca Lia Block as “explicitly vulgar, racial, and anti-Christian,” the complaint by Braun, Joseph Kogelmann, Rev. Cleveland Eden, and Robert Brough explains that “the plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library,” specifically because Baby Be-Bop contains the “n” word and derogatory sexual and political epithets that can incite violence and “put one’s life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike.”

The complaint points out that library Director Michael Tyree has “publicly stated that it is not up to the library to tell the community what is appropriate.” Citing “Wisconsin’s sexual morality law,” the plaintiffs also request West Bend City Attorney Mary Schanning to impanel a grand jury to examine whether the book should be declared obscene and making it available a hate crime.

Abusive priest Gannon gave boy an ‘anatomy lesson’

Abusive priest Gannon gave boy an ‘anatomy lesson’

A FORMER Melbourne priest who sexually abused young boys over an 18-year period from 1958 refused to apologise for indecently assaulting an 11-year-old for fear of a compensation claim being made against the church, a court has heard.

Retired Catholic priest Desmond Laurence Gannon, 79, told police last year that he was giving the boy an anatomy lesson when he took him from school and assaulted him in 1968. “I thought it was less formal rather than inviting him into the presbytery and that’s all,” he said.

It is Gannon’s fifth prosecution for sex offences. He was previously convicted in 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2003 for other indecent assaults committed between 1958 and 1976.

While Gannon received jail sentences on each occasion, he served an immediate term only once.

In a victim impact statement read yesterday to the County Court, the now 51-year-old victim described feeling “broken” and totally worthless and said he did not socialise as a normal child after the offences.

“It destroyed all my hopes and dreams,” he told Judge Frank Gucciardo.

Gannon, who previously served across Melbourne including in Macleod, Ashburton, Northcote and Kilmore, yesterday pleaded guilty to five counts of unlawful and indecent assault.

Prosecutor Ray Gibson told the court that in 1968 Gannon travelled alone with the victim and stopped his car on a bush track outside Kilmore where he assaulted him. Gannon told the boy not to tell anyone and that they wouldn’t believe him.

The victim was assaulted by Gannon on two other occasions, once after arriving early for altar boy duties at Mass and another in a pump room at a college swimming pool.

Gannon was secretly recorded by police last year refusing to apologise to the victim because he was fearful of a compensation claim against the church. “I won’t say sexual abuse because at the time I didn’t know what it was,” he told the victim.

Mr Gibson said that Gannon’s offending had been “planned and deliberate”.

Brian Bourke, for Gannon, said his client had not offended since 1976 and that to impose a jail term for offences 40 years old would be “unreasonable”.

Character witnesses for Gannon said he was remorseful, but Mr Gibson and Judge Gucciardo questioned the extent of the remorse as Gannon had failed to apologise.

Witness Donald Johnson, a former Baptist minister, said Gannon had “a maladaptive approach to his own sexuality”, but had never said he knew what he did was wrong.

Judge Gucciardo will sentence Gannon on June 3.

Dead girl ‘punished in cold bath’

Dead girl ‘punished in cold bath’

A seven-year-old girl allegedly starved to death by her mother and mother’s partner was made to sit in a cold bath as a punishment, a court has been told.

In video evidence shown at Birmingham Crown Court, a 12-year-old girl said that she herself had been made to stand in front of a fan in her underwear.

Junaid Abuhamza, 30, and Angela Gordon, 34, both of Leyton Road in Handsworth, Birmingham, deny murdering Khyra Ishaq.

The prosecution said Khyra was starved to death and kept prisoner.

‘Miss food’

The court heard the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was also in the care of the defendants.

She told a policewoman that children at the house would miss out on food if they were naughty.

She also said that she was struck with a stick and made to stand in front of a fan wearing boxer shorts and a vest.

She added that she and others would also be made to stand outside the house.

The court has heard that Khyra lost up to 40% of her bodyweight and resembled a “concentration camp” victim when she was found.

Earlier this week, the jury was told that Mr Abuhamza and Ms Gordon told children at the house they believed Khyra had been possessed by an evil spirit.

Mr Abuhamza pleaded guilty last week to five cruelty charges relating to other children.

Ms Gordon denies five child cruelty offences, which were allegedly committed between December 2007 and May 2008.

The case has been adjourned until Monday.