The Borgias made more for ratings than for jabs at Church, professor says

Actor Jeremy Irons portrays Pope Alexander VI in the upcoming TV series 'The Borgias'.WASHINGTON - The upcoming series The Borgias may be interpreted less as a swipe against the Catholic Church than the desire for the Showtime pay-cable channel to produce a follow-up in the same vein as its racy predecessor, The Tudors.

"They're going for the flamboyant, the exotic, the erotic," said Timothy Thibodeau, a history professor at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. "Everybody's heard of Henry the Eighth," the central character in The Tudors, Thibodeau added, while Rodrigo Borgia (who became Pope Alexander VI) is a figure "a lot of people have never heard of. For most historians it's very well known."

It's because of this, Thibodeau said, that leads him to doubt whether The Borgias "will present anything new that will stand the test of time."

The Borgias debuts April 3 on the Bravo network in Canada and Showtime in the United States. John Mulderig of Catholic News Service's Media Review Office, in a review of the premiere episode, said it "sometimes degenerates from an intriguing study in power politics — however misplaced and lamentable — to an obvious exercise in sensationalism."

    Vatican partnership will assure faith focus for Canadian pilgrims

    Patrizia De Libero Brown says Ornit-organized tours will allow pilgrims to meet with the local Church. (Photo by Michael Swan)TORONTO - If Catholics are ever going to feel at home in a global Church and a globalized world, they had better get out there, far from home, said Fr. Caesar Atuire, CEO of the Vatican’s service to pilgrims.

    Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi has forged a North American partnership to offer travel services for Canadian pilgrims. Ornit, official distributor of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi services in North America, will offer pilgrimage packages to Rome, Lourdes, Israel and Palestine, walking pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, social justice tours of Nepal and event packages for World Youth Day and the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

    Working with Opera Romana, Ornit’s tours assure a faith focus for all their pilgrimages, including daily Mass.

      Unwinding a living, active Word that is the Bible

      The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental BookThe Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book by Timothy Beal (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 265 pages, hardcover, $31.50).

      Christians are often described as people of the book. This is because our lives are shaped in a very direct way by the words of the two testaments we call the Bible. We give no other book on our library shelves the same degree of honour that we give this book. No other book challenges us, in so many different ways, to the same degree.  

      In part, that is because of the high standard of ethical behaviour it sets before us. But part of the challenge also proceeds from the fact that, for many, its ancient contents are difficult to grasp, with details that even appear to contradict one another at times.

        Remarkably true, yes, but one-sided look at historical wrong

        Esther: The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright, Puritan Child, Native Daughter, Mother Superior by Julie Wheelwright (HarperCollins, 342 pages, hardcover, $32.99).Esther: The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright, Puritan Child, Native Daughter, Mother Superior by Julie Wheelwright (HarperCollins, 342 pages, hardcover, $32.99).

        Julie Wheelwright has an extraordinary tale to tell about her ancestor Esther. But she falls a little short of telling the whole story, and that’s a shame.

        Esther Wheelwright lived in colonial New England at a time when violent conflict between settlers and native people was rife. Imagine living under the constant threat of kidnap. Imagine you are six or seven and this is all you have known. This was the way for 18th-century native children in what is now Eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. 

        Armed settlers took men, women, children, even babies — and this is in addition to taking the land native people needed to survive on. This was long before residential schooling was instituted. In the early colonial era, some were killed, others kept as slaves. We know little else about them.

          Vatican offers hands-on approach to art

          A corner of a sarcophagus is seen in the pre-Christian and early Christian art and artifacts display at the Vatican Museums. The Museums have started special tours for the deaf and blind, offering a multi-sensory experience of some of its most famous works. (CNS file photo/Nancy Wiechec)VATICAN CITY - The Vatican Museums have launched special tours for the deaf and blind.

          The two-hour tours are free to the hearing- and visually impaired and seek to offer a multi-sensory experience of some of the Museums’ most famous works.

          Seven women, five of whom are deaf, received specialized training in art history and archeology at the Museums so they could work as professional guides for the new tour for the deaf.

          The tour for the deaf includes stops in the Raphael Rooms, the Sistine Chapel and visits to the classical statues collection. The guides are fluent in a number of sign languages, including British and French.