FaithWorld

Cardinal Martino does it again

Cardinal Renato Martino, the papal aide who angered Israel and Jews by comparing Gaza to a “big concentration camp” is no novice at being outspoken or controversial. The southern Italian cardinal speaks his mind, loves to talk and sometimes has had to pay the price. Martino, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (effectively its justice minister), has a laundry list of people and governments with whom he has clashed. But that hasn’t stopped him. (Photo: Cardinal Martino at the Vatican, 12 April 2005/Tony Gentile)

Perhaps his most famous remark came in December, 2003 when, shortly after U.S. troops captured former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Martino told a news conference at the Vatican that U.S. military were wrong to show video footage of Saddam. “I felt pity to see this man destroyed, (the military) looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures,” he said at the time.

The “treated like a cow” remark was heard around the world and, needless to say, was not very appreciated in the White House. The Vatican had opposed the U.S.-invasion of Iraq in March of that year. In fact, a certain chill developed between Martino and then U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson, a Vietnam veteran who later went on to become Bush’s Secretary for Veteran Affairs.

While that is the Martino quip everyone remembers, there has been no lack of others.

In 2005, ahead of a meeting of the Group of Eight rich nations summit in Scotland, he pointedly said the United States had to “open its eyes” about the problems of Africa. He angered anti-immigration parties in Italy by backing a proposal to allow Muslim pupils in Italy to study the Koran in state schools. He angered U.S. conservatives, including well-known television commentators, when he said Washington’s plan to build a fence on the U.S.-Mexican border was part of an “inhuman programme.”

Lourdes-based “Catholic Google” may be rebaptised

Catholic Google has a catchy name, a funny logo and a location near one of the most Catholic places on Earth, the pilgrimage town of Lourdes in southwestern France. After only three weeks on the web, it has seen its user stats grow to about 16,000 visits a day. But the site that describes itself as“the best way for good Catholics to surf the web” may be in for a rebaptism. Its webmaster has asked Google if it has any objections to the name and is waiting for a reply.

While doing research for my blog post on Catholic Google on Sunday, I found it was based in a village outside of Lourdes. In a phone call today, webmaster Paul Mulhern told me he set up the website with standard Google filters last month as a service for Catholics who want to surf the web without all the objectionable material they usually come across there. The idea came from his wife, who runs a religious goods shop in Lourdes. They’re originally from Leeds in the UK.

He said most reaction to the site had been positive, although some comments accused him of trying to create a segregated corner of the web just for Catholics. “I can see where they’re coming from but I think they have the wrong point of view,” he said.

A Catholic Google? Are Muslim, Jewish or other Googles coming?

So now there’s Catholic Google*, a search engine that calls itself  “the best way for good Catholics to surf the web”, It claims that “it produces results from all over the internet with more weighting  given to Catholic websites and eliminates the vast majority of unsavoury content, such as pornography”.

When I heard this today, my first question was whether Google was getting into the religion business. Were there Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or other versions of the search engine out there as well? If not, would Google come up with them soon? Would it design filters that screen out cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, pro-Palestinian websites or other items that followers of certain faiths might not want to see?

It turns out the answer is “No” to all above. Catholic Google has no connection to Google itself (here’s its disclaimer).  Somebody has reserved a URL for a Muslim Google but it has no content. There’s a Jewgle out there, but it’s more about jokes than real searches.

Afghan journalist gets 20 years for insulting Prophet Mohammad

Afghan journalist Kambakhsh attends hearing at court in Kabul, 21 Ocy 2008/Omar SobhaniThe sentencing of an Afghan journalist to 20 years in jail for distributing an Internet article that said the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women has raised questions about freedom of expression and possibly the rising influence of hardline Islamists in war-ravaged Afghanistan. But is there politics at play here as well?

Sayed Perwiz Kambkhash, 23,  a reporter for the  newspaper Jahan-e-Naw (“New World”), was sentenced to death in January for insulting the Prophet after his arrest a few months earlier in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. The trial reportedly took five minutes and he was not allowed to offer a defense. The appeals court commuted that sentence to 20 years.

Death sentences for blasphemy sound like something the Taliban would impose, but Mazar-i-Sharif is far from being  a Taliban redoubt. It was once a stronghold of the old Northern Alliance, which backed by U.S. firepower, ousted the Taliban from power after the Sept. 11 suicide airliner attacks. The capital of Balkh province, Mazar-i-Sharif, is home to the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, the “Blue Mosque” revered by Shias. The dominant language is Persian (Uzbek is also spoken) and ties with Iran have traditionally been strong. The Pashtu-speaking Taliban, who are Sunnis from eastern and southern Afghanistan, have little to do with that part of the country.

Catholic bishop goes YouTube to warn about Internet

If a Catholic bishop wants to warn youngsters about moral dangers lurking on the Internet, where should he go to get his message across? YouTube, of course. That’s what Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong , in New South Wales in Australia, has done. The four-minute clip accompanies a pastoral letter just issued by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on the same subject.

The white-haired prelate confesses up front that he’s a newbie in cyberspace. “I wouldn’t know my Facebook from my Second Life, or a blog from a chatroom,” he admits. To show how familiar young people are with the Internet, he tells the story of how a little girl learning the Lord’s Prayer misunderstood its appeal for deliverance from evil and ended it  by saying: “… lead us not into temptation, but deliver us some email , amen.”

Here’s the whole clip: YouTube Preview Image

PS: Hat tip to The Religious Write.