Gunning for Godfried? Belgian abuse probe asks what Danneels knew

standaardAre the Belgian judicial authorities gunning for Godfried? It looks like Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the popular grandfatherly Catholic prelate who stepped down in January as archbishop of Brussels-Mechelen after three decades, is the main target of the incredible “tomb raider” sweeps that shocked the Church last Thursday. The police who swooped down on the diocesan headquarters in Mechelen, Danneels’s own apartment nearby and the offices of the Church commission on abuse in Leuven did not suspect the cardinal of abuse himself. But it seems the investigating magistrate behind the raid is convinced that Danneels hushed up cases during his long reign.

The media seem to be too — just take a look at last Saturday’s front page of the Brussels daily De Standaard at the right.

There may be something there. Let’s see what the investigators come up with.

Does the magistrate actually think Danneels also crept down to the crypt at St. Rumbold’s Cathedral in Mechelen one night and stashed incriminating files in the tombs of his predecessors?  Now we’re in Da Vinci Code territory. This would be laughable if it weren’t a sign of the Marc Dutroux cloud that hangs over any case like this in Belgium. The Belgian police suspected Dutroux of kidnapping girls in the 1990s and actually inspected his house and missed the dungeon for the girls in the basement. There were huge protests against police incompetence when this came out. Dutroux was arrested and convicted of the murder of four girls. So the police are going to be extra tough and thorough to make sure they don’t bungle it again.

The change in tone about Danneels is striking and dates to the April resignation of Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe after admitting he had abused his own nephew. Danneels said at the time that he first learned of Vangheluwe’s transgressions only days before they became public, a fact that has been challenged by a Brussels priest, Rik Devillé. In the eight weeks since that shock, 475 people contacted the Church commission on sexual abuse to report their cases. Only 30 cases had been registered with the commission in the previous 10 years and none or almost none with the police. This is a sea change.

Roman archaeologists find oldest images of Apostles in a catacomb

apostles 4 (Photo: Professor Fabrizio Bisconti shows the image of an unidentified person on the ceiling of the catacomb chamber, with the four portraits of Apostles in circles in the corners of the ceiling, 22 June 2010/Tony Gentile)

Archaeologists and art restorers using new laser technology have discovered what they believe are the oldest paintings of the faces of Jesus Christ’s Apostles.  The images in a branch of the catacombs of St Tecla near St Paul’s Basilica, just outside the walls of ancient Rome, were painted at the end of the 4th century or the start of the 5th century.

Archaeologists believe these images may have been among those that most influenced later artists’ depictions of the faces of Christ’s most important early followers.  “These are the first images that we know of the faces of these four Apostles,” said Professor Fabrizio Bisconti, the head of archaeology for Rome’s numerous catacombs, which are owned and maintained by the Vatican.

The full-face icons include visages of St Peter, St Andrew, and St John, who were among Jesus’ original 12 Apostles, and St Paul, who became an Apostle after Christ’s death.

Visitors banned from Kashmir shrine some claim is tomb of Jesus


A Kashmiri Muslim woman prays at the Rozabal Shrine in Srinagar on April 22, 2010/Danish Ismail

Who is buried at a small shrine in Kashmir? Jesus or two medieval Muslim scholars?

Renewed debate over whose remains are actually in the Rozabal shrine, which attracts hundreds of tourists to the capital of lndia’s only Muslim-dominated region, has led caretakers to close it to visitors after allowing access for several years.

Vandal desecrates Cypriot bishops’ tombs


Cyprus police look for clues after a vandalism attack on the tombs of three archbishops in Nicosia 21 March 2010/Andreas Manolis

Police in Cyprus arrested a Romanian man on Sunday on suspicion of desecrating the tombs of three archbishops and possibly taking remains from one of them. Police said the 34-year-old had confessed to removing marble slabs covering the graves of three leaders of the Cypriot Orthodox church from the late 19th and early 20th century.

They also said skeletal remains had disappeared from one of the tombs, but that the remains from another, briefly thought to have been taken, had in fact been re-buried elsewhere years ago.  The suspect, who had not been charged, was arrested after turning up at a police station with a bag of human excrement, which he threw at police officers. He denied removing any human remains from the tombs.