‘Phallic’ sculpture provokes clash ahead of Pope’s Malta visit

Photo:  REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

The Maltese Front Against Censorship said that it believes that a penis-like sculpture at Luqa should not be removed before the Pope visits the capital of Malta, Valetta, this weekend. The Mayor of Luqa, John Schembri, said yesterday that the sculpture, on the Pope’s route to Valetta, should be taken down “as a sign of respect”. Colonna Mediterranea (Mediteranean Column) is the work of ceramic artist and sculptor Paul Vella Critien and was installed on a roundabout at the entrance to the village of Luqa in January 2006.

Pope condemns Bible ‘vandalism’

The Pope has condemned a Scottish art exhibition which invites visitors to deface a copy of the Bible as “disgusting”. The exhibit at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow was intended for the LGBT community who felt left out of religion to “write their way back in” to the holy book. A Vatican spokesperson said the project was “disgusting and offensive,” adding “they would not think of doing it to the Koran.” The Bible will remain on display in a glass case and the public will now have to write comments in another book alongside. Read more here

The politics of the Pope and Palestine

The visit of a religious dignitary of the stature of Benedict XVI is a delicate matter, fraught with religious and political sensitivities. In particular, Israeli authorities were especially keen not to burden the Holy Father with anything as earthly as political protests, especially protests critical of the hosting state.

Quite apart from the extraordinary reaction to a Palestinian cleric making a few fairly non-controversial remarks, local police have been sparing no effort to depoliticize the visit, or at least not to allow it to be politicized in any way beyond the recognition demanded of the pope for exclusively Jewish suffering.

In one example, two Palestinian citizens of Israel (or “two Arabs”, as most of the media chose to phrase it) were arrested in East Jerusalem on May 9, three days before the pope was due to land, on suspicion of “intending to deal out leaflets calling for a boycott of the Papal visit.” The police did not specify the content of the leaflets and whether they incited to violence of any sort.

Two other men were arrested in Nazareth the following day, also on charges of “intending to hang posters critical of the papal visit.” The local police again refused to comment on the content of the materials, but noted that “we will act decisively against any attempt to interrupt with the visit.” The headline heralding this arrest in one Israeli website was a gem in its own right —- “Two more suspected of opposition to the pope arrested.”

On the day of the visit itself, police proceeded to shut down a Palestinian Authority press briefing organized in an East Jerusalem hotel. The room at the Ambassador hotel was sealed, the attendees politely dispersed and all “documents” found confiscated. The commanding officer remarked the operation went through “without incident.”

Unusually, the arrests were not entirely reserved to Palestinians. A Jewish ultra-Orthodox man was caught throwing paint at a Vatican flag on a lamppost on a Jerusalem street and promptly detained. Police also dispersed the comic relief of the week — several of the most brutal settler activists, including Cahanist MK Moshe Ben Ari demonstrated in front of the presidential palace, demanding the pope “returns stolen sacred artifacts” – namely, the Temple treasures looted by the Romans in 66AD.

However, in marked contrast to the Palestinian protesters arrested through the weeks, prominent Jewish figures — including several rabbis and a left-wing MK — who called to boycott the events around the visiting pontiff were left untroubled by police.

Merkel and the Vatican

Chancellor Angela Merkel has got herself involved in Vatican politics, which, if nothing else, makes a change from the Vatican sticking its nose in to everyone else’s internal politics.

Speaking about Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to readmit members of the ultra-traditionalist Society of Pius X into the Vatican fold, in spite of some members’, well, interesting historical viewpoints, Merkel has demanded clarification of the Vatican’s position on Holocaust deniers in its ranks:

‘This is not just a matter, in my opinion, for the Christian, Catholic and Jewish communities in Germany but the Pope and the Vatican should clarify unambiguously that there can be no denial,’ said the Chancellor.

The problem is that really, it is just a matter for the Vatican. If Richard Williamson and the rest of the Lefebvre-ists had been excommunicated because of their tolerance of Holocaust denial, then one could feasibly criticise Benedict from readmitting them without them having purged their ranks of this great sin. But they were excommunicated for their objections to various policies emerging from the Second Vatican Council, such as ecumenicism and the abandonment of the Latin mass. If the Pope has reached some sort of resolution with them over these issues, then he has every right, by the internal logic of the church over which he has absolute dominion, to readmit them.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you can hear Richard Williamson’s views on the Holocaust here.

If you’re interested in how conspiracist phenomena overlap, you can hear Williamson explaining that 9/11 was an inside job here.

(Warning: may be upsetting for fans of rational argument and George Orwell).