On the centenary of his death, an influential Italian Jesuit publication has praised the notorious gay Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde for his embrace of spiritual values and his deathbed conversion to Catholicism.
    La Civilita Cattolica noted it had once condemned Wilde and his most famous poem, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," which was inspired by his imprisonment for homosexual offences.
    He was sentenced to two years in jail in 1895 for homosexual practices revealed during an unsuccessful libel suit against the Marquis of Queensberry.
    Writing in the journal, Fr Antonio Spadaro said his years spent behind bars were 'decisive', in marked contrast to the life of 'vanity and silly frivolity' he lived until them.
    Wilde, who was born in Dublin in a Protestant Anglo-Irish family, died in Paris on November 30, 1900.
    Spadaro wrote that the priest summoned to his deathbed was "absolutely sure" Wilde knew he was converting even though he appeared semiconscious.
    As further evidence of Wilde's interest in the Catholic church, Spadaro wrote that Wilde wanted to go to a Jesuit retreat upon his release from prison in 1897. The Jesuits asked him to wait a year as a test that his desire was real.
11 Oct 00

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