THOSE who complain about Catholic education in Britain should spare some sympathy for the United States. The St Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Syracuse, New York state, is running classes comparing J K Rowling's teenage wizard Harry Potter to Jesus Christ. Teachers dress up as characters from the books and part of the church has been converted to a replica of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where Potter is a pupil. During the lessons, the baptism of Christ is compared to Harry's "calling" to be a wizard where he overcomes the evil Lord Voldemort.
"It is very easy to compare Jesus and Harry Potter," says Madeline Loiacano, the church's co-director and religious education teacher.
"Harry is compassionate, he's not judgmental, he's selfsacrificing to the point of being willing to die for his friends, he focuses on the good in people, even when people are not nice to him. How many kids do you know who are excited about going to school to hear about scripture? Harry Potter is popular. It's hot. I'd use what's of interest to the children to get the message across."
Come back Weaving the Web, all is forgiven.
FORMER Franciscan novice Torn Cruise has teamed up with an Orthodox rabbi to launch a crusade against gossip. The national campaign called Words Can Heal will run TV adverts castigating gossips and reminding people of the power of words. Posters and adverts in newspapers will also remind people to "Battle Verbal Violence and Gossip".
COIN collectors across the world
will gather at the Vatican on New Year's Day for what I understand will be the numismatic event of the year, as the Holy See issues its first euro coins, marked with the gleaming likeness of the Pope.
Amalia D'Alascio, assistant director of the Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office, is expecting swift business. "We have very many collectors throughout the world," he said. "We have close to 60,000 names on our bulletin list."
So great is the demand that he and his colleagues are preparing to set up a coin and stamp service on the Vatican's website.
OUR FILM buff Pontiff took time out last week to attend the premiere of the remake of the awardingwinning 1951 film Quo Vadis?and gave the sumptuous Roman epic five stars out of five in a postscreening address. Polish director Jerzy Kawalerowicz had, he said, "produced a work of great inspiration, which reflects the timelessness of Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel, written more than a century ago".
"Quo Vadis? makes it possible to return to the tradition of overwhelming trials and helps one find oneself" he added.
1 expect we'll see, that as a blurb if it makes it to Britain.
FINALLY, farewell to R'n' B diva Aaliyah, killed last month in a plane crash in the Bahamas. At her funeral Mass in Manhattan's Jesuit church, celebrant Fr Walter Modrys told mourners that on the cover of one of her albums, she expressed thanks for God's love and blessings. "I asked people to remember Aaliyah as someone who lives with God," he said afterwards.
— Martin Marprelate