Sat-TV obit channel to go live soon

December 13, 2007

Tomb in a cemetery in BudapestObituaries on TV? Satellite broadcasts of cemetery visits? It may sound morbid, but a German television producer plans to launch a satellite TV channel dedicated to obituary videocasts, features on famous graveyards and practical advice for those nearing death. And he thinks he’s got a huge target audience that can only get bigger in coming years.

Science helps religion in stem cell debates

December 12, 2007

A microscopic view of undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells.Science and religion are sometimes portrayed as adversaries, especially by the “new atheists“, but the real picture has always been more complex. The latest breakthrough in stem cell research shows how quickly opposing sides can become allies. On Nov. 20, two research teams announced they had transformed ordinary skin cells into stem cells without destroying human embryos in the process. That meant that scientists could solve an ethical dilemma they had effectively created when they began using human embryos to produce stem cells.

Merkel muddles mosques and minarets

December 4, 2007

from Madeline Chambers in Hanover, GermanyGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel at CDU party conference, 3 Dec. 2007

Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered a slightly bumpy landing at the annual conference of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Hanover this week when she jumped on a popular bandwagon by saying that mosques shouldn’t stand higher than churches in Germany.

Thumbs down for giant Jesus statue in the Bavarian Alps

November 16, 2007

Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de JaneiroA German businessman has plans to erect the world’s largest statue of Jesus Christ on a mountaintop in the Bavarian Alps. Neither the Catholic nor the Protestant churches there want it. A poll for the television channel Bayerischer Rundfunk showed 77.54 percent of those responding are also against it. The planners are not giving up, however. In a press release this week, they urged their critics to use the coming Christmas season to reconsider and open their hearts to “more tolerance and positive participation.” That includes a fund drive to raise the two million euros the project will cost.

Catholic culture slips a bit in Benedict’s backyard

November 9, 2007

Bavarian children greet Pope Benedict in Munich, Sept. 9. 2006The southern German state of Bavaria is one of those areas, like southern Poland, that are known for their fervent folk Catholicism. It was on full display last year when Bavaria’s favourite son, Pope Benedict, visited his native state. But Catholicism is changing even in Bavaria, as his successor as archbishop of Munich and Freising has admitted. Cardinal Friedrich Wetter told fellow Bavarian bishops on Thursday that so many candidates for the priesthood have such insufficient knowledge of Catholic teaching that seminaries will have to introduce remedial courses to bring them up to standard.

Bioethical dilemmas know no boundaries

November 5, 2007

Bioethical dilemmas know no boundaries. France found that out this weekend when the daily Libération revealed that a French couple that had used a surrogate mother in the United States had won a long legal battle to be recognised as the parents of the twin girls who resulted from the arrangement. Surrogacy is illegal in France. French officials refused to register the twins as the couple’s daughters, leaving them in a legal limbo for seven years. But an appeals court finally granted their wish, arguing it was in the children’s best interests to recognise the U.S. birth certificates that listed Dominique and Sylvie (their surname was not published) as the parents.

Friedländer’s eloquent Holocaust non-speech in Frankfurt

October 15, 2007

Imagine you are a Jewish historian of the Holocaust. You are being awarded one of Germany’s most prestigious prizes. The ceremony is solemn, the audience filled with the great and the good. The three Germans speaking before you give lofty speeches praising you and your life’s work for recording and explaining what they must never forget. What kind of speech should you deliver?