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Vatican releases Papal book

Light of the World. The Pope and the sign of the Times, a new book on Pope Benedict XVI, featured interviews with the 83-year old pontiff in which he expressed his views on subjects ranging from condoms to Islam

books Updated: Nov 24, 2010 14:04 IST

A book consisting of the first series of exclusive interviews ever granted to a reporter by a pope was presented on Tuesday at the Vatican.

Light of the World. The Pope and the sign of the Times, a new book on Pope Benedict XVI, featured interviews with the 83-year old pontiff in which he expressed his views on subjects ranging from condoms to Islam.

Prior to its release, the anticipated book had created controversy over advanced excerpts that appeared in Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano.

Debate arose immediately over the pontiff's comments regarding the use of condoms, saying they would be acceptable in "some cases". The book was also the first time a pope had expanded on how condoms could be used to fight HIV.

Due to translation issues that arose between the Italian, German and English versions it was unclear if the Pope had meant to address condom usage for women, as well as men.

Vatican officials tried to down play the confusion.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella who presides over the pontifical council for promoting new evangelisation said, "Reducing the entire interview to one phrase .... would be an offence to the Pope's intelligence and a gratuitous manipulation of his words...", while Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi told journalists Benedict XVI was referring to a "responsible use" of one's sexuality.

Authored by German journalist Peter Seewald - the book is sure to set a historic precedent in so far as popes rarely - if ever - are interviewed.

In the book, Benedict also tries to set straight past controversial statements regarding the Islamic faith after relations with Muslims were badly strained in 2006 when the Pope in a speech in Regensburg, Germany, linked Islam to violence. Benedict later said he regretted that Muslims were offended by his remarks, and the Vatican has since tried to improve relations with Muslims.

In the book he told Seewald, "I had conceived of that speech as a strictly academic lesson, without realizing the words of a Pope are not taken as academic but as politician."

The book comes at a time when the Church is seeking to clean up its image, beleaguered by the clergy sex abuse scandal which has rocked the Vatican since 2002.