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Vatican calls Israeli show offensive

Associated Press / February 21, 2009
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VATICAN CITY - The Vatican said yesterday that it has formally complained to the Israeli government about a private Israeli television show that ridiculed Jesus and Mary in an "offensive act of intolerance."

In Israel, the television station assured the Israeli foreign ministry that the segment would not be shown again and that its host, well-known Israeli comedian Lior Shlein, had apologized.

In the program, Shlein sarcastically denied Christian beliefs - that Mary was a virgin and that Jesus walked on water - saying he was doing so as a lesson to Christians who deny the Holocaust.

It was a reference to the Vatican's recent lifting of the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson, who denied that 6 million Jews were killed during World War II. The rehabilitation sparked outrage among Jews.

The Vatican press office said its representative in Israel complained to the government about the segment, broadcast recently on private Channel 10, one of Israel's three main television stations, during Shlein's late-night comedy talk show.

The Vatican said Mary and Joseph were "ridiculed with blasphemous words and images" that amounted to a "vulgar and offensive act of intolerance toward the religious sentiments of the believers in Christ."

Spokesman Yigal Palmor said the Israeli Foreign Ministry approached Channel 10 based on the complaints and was told the segment would not air again.

Palmor said the station's legal adviser had also already sent a letter of apology to an attorney who represents a Christian group that had complained.

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