Pope butt of too many jokes, Vatican says

Italian newspapers are saying that the Vatican cannot take a joke after Pope Benedict's secretary said he had had enough of TV and radio satires including a sketch in which the non-smoking Pope was said to be "smoking like a Turk" in preparation for his forthcoming trip.

The big question on the front pages of Italy's newspapers yesterday was not the bankruptcy crisis facing the country's rail and airline networks but whether it is politically correct to joke about the Pope, Reuters reports.

"The Vatican doesn't like satire," La Repubblica commented, after the Vatican reacted to a recent flood of television and radio shows poking fun at the Pope.

L'Unita, the newspaper of the largest party in the centre-left government, even put its banner headline - "The Vatican Can't Take a Joke" - above its story about the state railway system being "on the brink of bankruptcy".

In one TV program, comedian Maurizio Crozza, dressed in white papal robes, imitates Benedict's distinct German accent as he sits behind a desk flanked by two Swiss Guards in ceremonial blue, red and yellow uniform.

Crozza does a satirical play on two identical sounding words - Pax (peace) and PACS, the acronym for a controversial law that would give unwed heterosexual couples and gay couples in Italy equal civil rights. He says "pax (or PACS) be with you".

In a radio program, two comedians imitate the Pope and his priest-secretary, Msgr Georg Ganswein, a 50-year-old German whose boyish good looks have made him a minor celebrity.

One says to the other that the Pope has started smoking three packs of cigarettes a day "like a Turk" in order to prepare himself for his trip to Turkey this month.

In Italy, the phrase "smoking like a Turk" means a very heavy smoker. The Pope is a non-smoker.

The controversy started last week when the Catholic newspaper Avennire blasted the shows and hit the headlines on Wednesday after Ganswein was reported to have told an Italian news agency that he had had enough of satire about his boss.

But L'Unita said any curbs on artistic freedom would be a "crusade" by the Vatican.

But perhaps an editorial cartoon on Wednesday had the last word on what some consider a tempest in a chalice, Reuters says.

One character said the TV and radio sketches of the Pope left a lot to be desired and the other responded that Pope was actually funnier than the comedians trying to imitate him.

Is it OK to poke fun at Pope? Italians ask (Reuters, 15/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Maurizio Crozza (Wikipedia - Italian)
Maurizio Crozza (YouTube)

16 Nov 2006