- Title: JERUSALEM: Israel apologises for TV satire show that caused Vatican complaint
- Date: 24th February 2009
- Summary: BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK (FEBRUARY 23, 2009) (REUTERS) SAMOEL HABEEB CATHOLIC CHURCH PRIEST AT THE NATIVITY CHURCH WALKING INTO HIS OFFICE SAMOEL HABEEB SITTING AT HIS DESK PAINTING OF NATIVITY SCENE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SAMOEL HABEEB CATHOLIC CHURCH PRIEST AT THE NATIVITY CHURCH SAYING: "The Vatican sent a letter in which it condemned this tasteless act. And on another front all the heads of churches, not just the Catholic church even the Muslim brothers, have united in solidarity on this and are calling on the Pope to deal with this case and to produce a practical solution in order to make sure such an action is not repeated again." CHURCH BELLS AT THE CHURCH OF NATIVITY ENTRANCE TO NATIVITY CHURCH
- Embargoed: 11th March 2009 12:00
- Topics: International Relations,Religion
- Reuters ID: LVAD0T0EO9DVWAHHFPJNJHK5QO92
- Story Text: Israeli official apologises for television satire show's offensive remarks to Christianity which sparked an official Vatican complaint ahead of the Pope's visit to the holy land.
An Israeli official said on Sunday (February 22) that an apology was sent to Christian pontiffs after a TV show host offended Christians with remarks denying Christian traditions, which drew condemnation from the Vatican.
Popular comedian Lior Shlein, host of Channel 10's "Tonight Show", made remarks about Mary and Jesus that some of Israel's Christian community and the Vatican deemed offensive.
Mary was said to have become pregnant at 15, thanks to a schoolmate and Jesus could never have walked on water because "he was so fat he was ashamed to leave the house, let alone go to the Sea of Galilee with a bathing suit."
The television station assured the Israeli foreign ministry that the segment would not be aired again.
"In the late night satirical programme some offensive remarks were made concerning the Christian religion. Following protest by viewers the channel actually published an apology in writing which was sent to the pontiffs and some of the people who complained. The host of the show in question actually apologised on air in his programme last week. I think this whole issue should be considered as a closed issue," said Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmour.
Shlein used his typical sarcasm to deny Christian traditions and said it was a "lesson" to Christians who deny the Holocaust.
At a cafe in Tel Aviv, Jewish viewers had no remorse over the comments calling on Christians to take these comments in stride and explaining that Jews are made fun of all the time and they don't complain.
"Why does everyone have such a serious attitude about it its not necessary? We are made fun of on daily basis on half of the news stations in America and all over the world, we take it in stride, you have to take things in stride and its life. If you cant laugh at yourself then what can you do, how can you live?" an American-Israeli, Ereka Walter, told Reuters outside the cafe.
Another resident of Tel Aviv Roni Sharon told Reuters that Jewish people are allowed to laugh at this: "Jesus probably had a Jewish mother, he probably was trying to study medicine he didn't do so well so he tried to run away from her and he took the shortest way which is over the water.
Anyways if any comedians wants to laugh at him, we are allowed, we are Jewish and that's the way it is."
The show's chief editor, Avi Cohen said the the satire was never meant to hurt the feelings of Christian believers. He said the segment was written as a protest against Pope Benedict's decision to lift an excommunication on four bishops of the traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX), including Briton Richard Williamson, who according to Cohen was not only a Holocaust denier but also made some very blunt statements regarding women. The satire aimed at criticising Williamson was just, Cohen added, but since what was meant to be a 'small joke' eventually hurt the feelings of Christians, Cohen apologised.
In recent weeks, Catholic bishop, Richard Williamson, denied the full extent of the Holocaust saying there were no gas chambers. The Vatican has ordered him to recant but he so far has not done so, saying he needs more time to review the evidence.
A statement from the Vatican press office said its representative in Israel complained to the government about the segment.
At the Church on Nativity in Bethlehem, a Church built on the location where according to Christian tradition Mary gave birth to Jesus, a Catholic priest, father Samoel Habeeb, condemned the show echoing the Vatican statement.
"The Vatican sent a letter in which it condemned this tasteless act. And on another front all the heads of churches, not just the Catholic church even the Muslim brothers, have united in solidarity on this and are calling on the Pope to deal with this case and to produce a practical solution in order to make sure such an action is not repeated again," Father Habeeb said.
Catholic-Jewish relations have been extremely tense since January 24, when Benedict lifted excommunication of four renegade traditionalist bishops in an attempt to heal a schism that began in 1988 when they were ordained without Vatican permission.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Pope Benedict will visit Israel in May, the first visit by a Pope to the Holy Land since John Paul visited in 2000. The Catholic Church says the Vatican is reconsidering Pope's visit to Israel.
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