Photo: Yossi Tzevker
The Vatican said it has formally complained to the Israeli government about a private Israeli TV show that ridiculed Jesus and Mary in an "offensive act of intolerance."
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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 traditions, 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 a bishop who denied 6 million Jews were killed during World War II. The rehabilitation sparked outrage among Jews.
A statement from the Vatican press office on Friday said its representative in Israel complained to the government about the segment, which was broadcast recently on private Channel 10, one of Israel's three main TV stations, during Shlein's late-night comedy talk show.
'Ashamed to leave the house'
In the clip, 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."
In the show, Mary is said to have become pregnant at 15, thanks to a schoolmate. It said Jesus could never have walked on water because "he was so fat he was ashamed to leave the house, let alone go to the Sea of Galilee with a bathing suit."
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the ministry approached Channel 10 based on the papal nuncio's 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 who had been offended by the segment.
Palmor said Shlein apologized live on Wednesday, and said he didn't mean to offend anyone. He said the station acted before the papal nuncio approached the foreign ministry.
The clip was a sarcastic response to the Vatican's rehabilitation of Bishop Richard Williamson, who said in an interview broadcast on Swedish state TV that no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust and that only 200,000 or 300,000 Jews were killed.
The Vatican's rehabilitation of Williamson sparked outrage that only abated after Pope Benedict XVI met with Jewish leaders at the Vatican last week. During his audience, the German-born pope issued a strong denunciation of anti-Semitism and said it was unacceptable for anyone, particularly a clergyman, to deny or minimize the Holocaust.
The Vatican has demanded that Williamson, a member of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, recant before he can be admitted as a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church. On Thursday, the government of Argentina, where Williamson had been living, ordered him expelled within 10 days. It cited an immigration problem but also said his comments about the Holocaust had profoundly insulted Argentina, Jews and all of humanity.
The British-born Williamson had already been removed as director of the society's La Reja seminary. He has apologized for causing distress to the pope but has not recanted. He has said he would only correct himself if he is satisfied after a review of the evidence, but has said that would take time.