When Pope Benedict XVI was elected two years ago, critics worried about how his strict doctrinal view of the Roman Catholic Church would affect religious policy. This month the Pope raised alarm bells by releasing two conservative decisions four days apart. In the first, he loosened restrictions on the old Latin mass, which was replaced during the Second Vatican Council in the ’60s with a modernized liturgy celebrated in local languages. Though it no longer refers to the “perfidious Jews,” it still contains a Good Friday prayer asking for the conversion of the Jews to end “the blindness of that people.” Jewish leaders expressed worry but the Pope, in his decree, dismissed fear of the rite as “unfounded.”
On July 10, it was the turn of other Christian faiths to voice their concerns when the Pope labelled them as “wounded.” In a text outlining their “defects,” the Vatican stated that “it is difficult to see how the title of ‘Church’ could possibly be attributed to [Protestant churches]” and that the Catholic Church was “the one true Church of Christ.” The statement, which reiterated many of Benedict’s hardline arguments, left the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, a coalition of Protestant faiths, to retort: “It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity.”
While the Church appears to be exclusionary in regard to other religions, it’s not above getting grumpy when it feels slighted. Just before the new seven wonders of the world were announced, the Vatican’s Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, head of the pontifical commission for culture, said that it was “surprising, inexplicable, even suspicious” that Christian art such as Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel didn’t make the short list. Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer statue, selected as a wonder, was deemed too touristy. M
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