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THE VATICAN DIARIES  A Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Power, Personalities and Politics At The Heart Of The Catholic Church

A Book Review by Anne Frandi-Coory

Vatican Diaries

 

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It really is a joke that the Vatican considers itself a city state in its own right! More like a private boarding institution full of petulant school boys with eccentric masters in control of such departments as Congregation For Catholic EducationCongregation For The Causes of SaintsCongregation For The Clergy, Congregation For Institutes of Consecrated Life And Societies Of Apostolic Life etc. and where the competition for supremacy  over doctrinal matters is fierce.

What bothered me the most about the goings on in the Vatican as revealed in this book, was the total shutdown of any discussion about the thousands of cases of sexual abuse of children in USA, Australia and Ireland; the total lack of any consideration of the harm done to children by paedophile priests. The Vatican is a well-oiled machine that protects the Church at all costs, and I mean ‘all costs’!

The only noteworthy global/political stance the Vatican has taken in recent times, in my view,  was when Pope John Paul ll warned the USA of the terrible consequences if it invaded Iraq: ‘Four years earlier [George W ] Bush had dismissed Pope John Paul’s cautionary warnings about war during the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, leaving deep resentment at the Vatican. In the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s demise, as terrorism, factional fighting and anti-Christian attacks increased, the Vatican said, essentially, “We told you so.”‘

It is truly incredulous how petty and ridiculous are the secrecy, the bitchiness, and to think this is the headquarters that directs the Catholic Faith for followers around the world! What a waste of time and money!! All the money the Catholic Church rakes in globally would surely feed the world’s poor? Instead it allows the clergy and the pope, to live in palaces, eat like kings, and be waited on day and night!

Just like Mother Teresa was a ‘cash cow’ for the Catholic Church, so too was the Legion of Christ whose Mexican founder, Marcial Maciel Degollado,  fathered several children to several different women but who the Vatican sponsored and feted because of the huge numbers of new priests flocking to his seminaries and the vast amounts of money his order collected in donations. He also embezzled millions for his own private use, and was accused of sexual abuse, but the Vatican protected him until he died.

And heresy isn’t a problem for the Catholic Church either these days, not if it brings in billions of dollars worldwide like the Lefebvrists do. This schism within the Holy Church, for which several bishops and priests were excommunicated, strongly advocates for the pre-Vatican Council ll Tridentine Rites, including the use of Latin for Mass. For this faction of Catholicism, strict Tradition is everything. It does show how little the sexual abuse of children by paedophile priests concerns the Vatican hierarchy when compared to apostasy.

The chapter in the book titled SEX   lays open the arguments within the Church about the problem of homosexuality of priests and it’s  very interesting indeed. There is little doubt that homosexual relationships between priests are condoned within the Vatican, and within parishes. In one case, a priest was caught on a hidden camera, attempting to seduce a young man on a white couch in his office!  It was a set up, and the whole affair was broadcast on Italian TV.  A few years ago, an investigation carried out by the Church,  employing expert psychiatrists, confirmed what the Church has always denied; that the Catholic priesthood is a haven for homosexuals and that teenage seminarians are the attraction. Also, research has revealed that by far the largest numbers of child abuse victims are pre-pubescent boys. One particular psychiatrist believes that celibacy is the prime cause of the fact that so many paedophiles join the priesthood. Many followers are dismayed that the Church will not soften its stance on celibacy, even though it allows its Eastern Orthodox priests to marry. One psychiatrist went so far as to advise the Vatican that allowing priests to marry would encourage more ‘socially mature’ men to become priests. The following is a significant expert opinion quoted by the author: ‘Dr Martin P Kafka, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, said he thought homosexuality, while not a cause of sexual abuse, was a “likely risk factor” that deserved further study. He stated that in comparison with the general population, abuse cases in the Church disproportionately involved homosexual male adults who’d molested adolescent males. The no-gay-priests faction did its best to ignore the fact that Dr Kafka had also wondered whether celibacy could also be a ‘risk factor’ in sexual abuse.  [My emphasis]

Is there a secret document emanating from the Congregation for Catholic Education, which oversees seminaries around the world, stating the Vatican’s new position on admitting homosexuals into the priesthood? Nothing has been confirmed, but… “The document’s position is negative based in part on what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in its revised edition, that the homosexual orientation is ‘objectively disordered.’ Therefore independently of  any judgment on the homosexual person, a person of this orientation should not be admitted to the seminary and, if it is discovered later, should not be ordained.” One can’t help wondering whether the Catholic Church is no longer attracting enough priests into its fold because of the dwindling faith of its congregations or perhaps because of its restriction on the ordination of homosexuals?

This chapter also reveals the Vatican’s rules on the use of condoms and other forms of contraception, and once again I am amazed at the ridiculous pettiness of the detail of what is and isn’t allowed! For instance: “condoms are acceptable for prostitutes, because the sex they engage in is already sinful”…but some in the Vatican are concerned because that “would lead the Church to support the use of condoms for all ‘fornicators’ including sexually active teenagers.” I won’t go into the detail of the Vatican’s rules about the use of condoms for the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS, but they border on the utterly ludicrous!

The Vatican Diaries is a must read, especially for the faithful, because you really should know the truth of what is happening within your own Church!  It is not just a salacious exposé…John Thavis has written an engaging and at times, very funny book. He obviously has friends within the Vatican whom he trusts and admires, and he has been working as a journalist in this field for over thirty years. I did enjoy the chapters about the Vatican Museum, and the character of an irreverent priest who translated documents into Latin, and who constantly embarrassed tourists and the Vatican hierarchy who  would have dearly loved to have fired him, if he hadn’t been such a brilliant Latinist!

The comings and goings, the antiquated white and black smoke  used to inform an anxiously waiting public about progress in the election of a new pope, are enlightening, humourous, and left me wondering why an extremely wealthy city state still used smoke signals, emitted from a belching, cough inducing stove. Oh that’s right, Tradition.

 

-Anne Frandi-Coory 31 August 2016

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A Book Review by Anne Frandi-Coory

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Michelangelo And Raphael In The Vatican. (Special edition for museums and papal galleries)

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‘Michelangelo & The Pope’s Ceiling’ by Ross King…  

…is a wonderful book all artists should read if they haven’t already. But then, anyone interested in the genius of Michelangelo would love it also.

The author, Ross King, intertwines Michelangelo’s private life and his many anxieties into the long and arduous travail that was the painting of the Sistine Chapel. And amidst all of this the disputes between the painter and Pope Julius II over money  and design give an insight into how closely the Vatican kept tabs on artists and the subjects of their works.

Compared to Raphael, Michelangelo was practically a saint. He worked long hours in Rome on the Pope’s most ambitious ‘project’ while at the same time handling all his family’s many problems, financial and otherwise, back at his home in Florence.

Michelangelo believed any sort of sexual liaison was dangerous to one’s wellbeing; ‘sapping’ a person’s vitality.  It is believed Michelangelo was celibate while his competitor Raphael, and Pope Julius, both had appetites for food, wine, and sex that were legendary. In fact, Raphael died in his late 30s from ‘a night of debauchery’. The pope suffered from syphilis and malaria. Many popes from that era suffered from syphilis and many had children. During this era, Rome, with a population of around 50,000, was infamous for the thousands of prostitutes working in that city. It goes without saying that among their clients were numerous Catholic clergy.

Often a pope’s son and heir, nephew,  or other relative, followed in his footsteps as head of the Roman Catholic Church. In those days, Popes and Bishops even went to war to win back papal states in Italy seized during invasions by other powerful countries. The fact that the Church used soldiers from ‘friendly’ countries to boost their own fighting power wasn’t a problem, neither were their looting and rampaging!

Being a history buff, I also enjoyed reading about the politics and life in Italy during the 15th and 16th Centuries. This book is well researched and equally well written.

In particular, I was fascinated by the techniques Michelangelo and Raphael used to paint their frescos. This method was used  to paint walls of palaces and churches, as well as the Sistine ceiling or ‘vault’. I always believed that the artists just painted the walls as though they were canvases. Not so. The method is painstaking, and requires much skill and patience. Several ‘plasterers’ are needed to assist the painter in mixing the correct ingredients and the painter applied pigments and sketches either to wet or dry plaster, depending on the effect required.

While I was in Rome in 1992, I bought a large book full of coloured glossy reproductions of Michelangelo’s and Raphael’s works during the reign of Pope Julius. I am so glad I did because there are no coloured plates in Ross King’s book,  therefore it would have been difficult for me to follow some of his more detailed discussions. For instance, as King explains in detail the various characters Michelangelo painted onto the Sistine ceiling, I was able to study them in this amazing book. It  made King’s book even more interesting from an artist’s perspective.

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School of Athens by Raphael

The author also discusses at length, one of my favourite paintings by Raphael, ‘The School Of Athens’. This was commissioned by Pope Julius for a stanza in his new apartments. Donato Bramante, Pope Julius’ favourite architect helped Raphael paint the monumental and palatial scenes in ‘The School’. My glossy book of reproductions also has wonderful individual full coloured reproductions of the various students and ‘professors’ in ‘The School’, such as Plato and Aristotle.

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Plato and Aristotle from ‘The School of Athens’

 

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A glossy plate taken from ‘The School of Athens’ showing Euclid and his students

 

-Anne Frandi-Coory 25 November 2013

Also here on Anne Frandi-Coory’s Facebook Page:

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‘Berlusconi gives the dictator of Libya a rock star welcome to Rome’.

Qadhafi with one of his elite  virgin bodyguards. He is dressed in his Michael Jackson suit

Elite Virgin Guard between Berlusconi & Qadhafi; you know what they say ‘Birds of a Feather…’

“Gaddafi’s arrived in Rome with a 300-strong retinue on three Airbuses. As ever, he brought with him a giant Bedouin tent, which was erected in a park in the centre of the city and where he was to stay and conduct business. There was no immediate sign of the camel he took on a visit to Paris in 2007 when he pitched his tent in the grounds of a five-star hotel.  With gelled and carefully dyed hair, the Colonel was made up to look like a cross between Michael Jackson and the deranged music mogul murderer Phil Spector” – Mark Almond.

Well, well.  It appears Muammar Al Qadhafi, the son of a Bedouin animal herder, was born in a tent, in the middle of a desert; and it could have been any one of the following: Arabian, Syrian, Nubian, or Sahara, although he says he was born in Surt. He is a devout muslim who graduated from the University of Libya and Libya’s  Military Academy.  In the past he has expelled Jews and Italians from Libya (Libya was an Italian colony before WWll).  As is usual with despots, Qadhafi banned all opposition to his regime.  Qadhafi is evidently very intelligent and managed to obtain a university degree even though he did not start school until he was 10 years old.

Qadhafi has female bodyguards who have to sign a document swearing on the Koran, that they will remain virgins while they serve ‘under’ him.  They must wear make up and jewellery at all times, and of course, high heels, when on duty.  However, it is rumoured that these bodyguards do not remain virgins for long once they begin work for this employer.  Qadhafi trains  his elite female bodyguards to be sadistic killers, and expects that they will put their beautiful bodies between him and any killer who attempts to assassinate him.  Qadhafi, since the late eighties, has been photographed wearing a dark  military style suit with gold epaulettes and fringes.  He took his inspiration for this getup from none other than Michael Jackson, ex Jackson Five.

Make no mistake, this man is absolutely ruthless with his own people who oppose him.  In the 1970s, Qadhafi personally ordered public executions. In 1977, he was present at hangings of students who had protested against his regime.  And then there are the murders of foreign citizens by his hand ie Lockerbie.  The mercurial Qadhafi is as evil and despotic as ever, wearing more makeup and hair dye than he ever has before.  Well, like Mubarak and Berlusconi, he is getting on in years, and these men believe themselves to be immortal.

Glamourous and Deadly!

Qadhafi’s eternal, rambling speeches at UN meetings

The reason the Western powers want to rid the world of Qadhafi, is because they can’t bear to listen to any more of his speeches!

Three examples Qadhafi Quotes:

“There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe–without swords, without guns, without conquests. The 50 million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.”

“Everyone here today came across the Atlantic or the Pacific, and I ask you, why? Is this Jerusalem, or Mecca? All of you have jetlag and are physically tired. Many of you are very tired because your biological mind should be asleep right now. Think about it, why should we continue to meet here in America?”

The Gold Man: rumoured to have tons of gold stashed away in his coffers.

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Qadhafi’s Humiliating End

UPDATE 2011:

Qadhafi captured and killed by rebels in his hometown of Sirte in October 2011.

He was initially shot in the legs upon capture, but he later sustained bullet wounds to the chest and head, from which he died. The UN is investigating the matter.

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Qadhafi’s body on display in Misrata (Photo by Reuters)

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Qadhafi’s final hideout

Charles Freeman’s book about civilisations of the Ancient Mediterranean

I have just been reading Egypt, Greece and Rome; Civilisations of the Ancient Mediterranean by Charles Freeman , published 1999.  What an amazing book of 638 pages.

Not as much of a chore to read as you might think. The author breaks the book into easy to follow chapters and titled paragraphs.  He uses date charts, date lists, events and maps to great effect and to which I referred constantly during the reading of the book.

The book has given me a better insight into the pre-history of these amazing civilisations, and to their relevance today. Mr Freeman takes the reader on an epic journey from Egypt in 4,500 BC to Eastern and Western Empires up to 1000 AD.  He brings together the most interesting and salient stories. In one sense, not much has changed.  Constant wars, plagues, atheism, religious diversity,polemics, politics, the fight for democracy, all played a part.

Carthage (now Tunisia) , for instance, was a prosperous and thriving Phoenician city in the 5th Century BC, and Greece was pioneering philosophy and   theatre.   Greek philosophers travelled the Mediterranean teaching students to “look” at both sides of an argument.  Trading goods between the various states was the chief activity that brought so many disparate groups together.  What I also loved about this book, are the references to legend and myth, and how they intertwined everyday life across the Mediterranean world. I especially enjoyed the sections on Classical Greece, a favourite era of mine, and the references to its literature.

In Chapter 14, Mr Freeman expands on the 5th Century origins of drama (one of the greatest of Athenian Inventions, by no means a universal human experience),  poetry, tragedy, theatre with such names as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and Aristophanes, that satirical playwright extraordinaire.

During these times, beliefs in various gods were tied in with natural events,  human frailty and excesses.  Travel was relatively easy throughout Greece and the Mediterranean, and even non-citizens could find skilled work. Differing versions of the genealogy of gods wasn’t a hindrance, and most visitors ‘slotted in’ with local lore.

It was interesting to read the section on Sophists. The original meaning of the word ‘Sophist’ was anyone with exceptional talent.  However, members of this group were attacked  by both Plato and Aristophanes (satirically) for daring to present arguments  for and against any motion. Sophists can be credited with pioneering the study of religion as a social and anthropological phenomenon according to Mr Freeman. They disagreed strongly with the belief that there was some divine principle at work in the Universe. (Modern atheists, take note!) The Sophist, Protagoras, spent most of his life as a travelling teacher. He wrote: “Concerning the gods, I am unable to discover whether they exist or not, or what they are like in form; for there are many hindrances to knowledge, the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.”  He proclaimed: “Man is the measure of all things.”   Athens was implementing democratic governance at this time and Protagoras’ proclamation could be taken as the slogan of democratic Athens.  Other Sophists suggested that gods originated in man’s experience of nature. The various gods had been created as personifications of natural phenomena such as the sun, moon, rivers, water and fire. To the Sophists men of shrewd and subtle minds invented for man the fear of the gods, to “frighten the wicked even if they acted, spoke or thought in secret.”  By the end of the century free thinking on religious matters was less tolerated.  Pestilence, war, tyrants and destruction killed optimistic fervour.

I wonder, is this what is happening in our world now?

 

-Anne Frandi-Coory  1 February 2011

 

 

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Mary & Jesus? No, actually Ancient Greek statue Tyche or Fortuna, the centre figure of a flourishing cult

Rome is Burning – Berlusconi Rises Again!

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday scraped through a crucial confidence vote in parliament, overcoming one of the most serious crises in his 16-year political career.

( See my post Is Berlusconi…….

Poor Italy – Corrupt government – Corrupt Vatican.  A bit like FIFA – MONEY TALKS??!!)

Berlusconi won with a razor-thin majority, as 314 politicians voted in his favour with 311 against and two abstentions in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies lower house.

His government earlier won a comfortable majority in the Senate.

Tens of thousands of anti-Berlusconi protesters meanwhile marched through Italy’s biggest cities. Some of the protesters in Rome set off smoke flares, hurled bottles and threw firecrackers, while police fired tear gas.

“Summing up what’s wrong with Berlusconi would be a very long list! But basically he hasn’t managed to cope with the economic crisis,” said Andrea, a school pupil taking part in the protest in Rome.

Silvia, a teacher, said: “I don’t see a future for young people.”

The vote followed heated debates in both chambers of parliament and a fight broke out between some supporters and opponents of the prime minister in the tense minutes before the announcement of the result in the lower house.

Berlusconi earlier voiced confidence in a victorious outcome as he arrived in parliament and said he “absolutely excluded” his resignation, demanded by former allies from his centre-right coalition who rebelled against him.

Berlusconi first launched himself onto a corruption-ridden political scene with an election win in 1994. He has since gone on two more elections in 2001 and 2008, brushing off a series of sex and graft scandals along the way.

The government’s current mandate is set to run out in 2013 but some analysts have argued that Italy will now still have to hold early parliamentary elections because the government’s narrow majority could paralyse parliament.

“This is a country that is tired and wants change,” the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, Pier Luigi Bersani, said ahead of the vote.

Antonio Di Pietro, a former anti-corruption judge and leader of the Italy of Values party, said Berlusconi’s “papier-mache empire” was finished.

“Go to the Bahamas! This is what awaits you: giving yourself up to the judiciary or fleeing,” Di Pietro shouted at Berlusconi.

But Fabrizio Cicchitto, the leader of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party in the lower house, said: “Berlusconi’s story is not over.”

The confidence vote followed a bitter split within the ruling coalition after the rebellion earlier this year of Berlusconi’s once-loyal ally Gianfranco Fini, the speaker of parliament, along with around 40 politicians.

Berlusconi had appealed to Fini’s supporters on Monday, calling on them to show “responsibility” and saying: “We must unite for the good of Italy.”

He asked his former partners not to “betray the mandate from our voters.”

The 74-year-old also argued that a vote of no-confidence would be damaging for Italy given the current turbulence on eurozone financial markets.

He warned against the “political folly” of ousting him at such a time.  “Berlusconi: The Day of Truth,” read a headline in La Repubblica, while Corriere Della Sera said the government was “on the razor’s edge.”

“Parliament will today probably finalise the collapse of the structure of centre-right coalitions for 16 years – the alliance between Silvio Berlusconi and Gianfranco Fini,” Corriere della Sera said in an editorial.

La Repubblica criticised Berlusconi’s attempt to rally his former allies from the centre-right, saying: “It’s a little prayer to try and survive another bit with the illusion of still having a government, a majority.”


Berlusconi imitating the pope

‘This sort of sadness has always prevailed among intelligent Italians, but most of them, to evade suicide or madness, have taken to every known means of escape…a passion for women, for food…above all, for fine sounding words’.Ignazio Silone from the Dark Heart of Italy.

Berlusconi has been Italy’s (bel paese; beautiful country) Prime Minister for seven out of the last ten years.

I have travelled to Italy many times over the past two decades; I love the people, the country, and would have loved to have lived there for a couple of years if I had been given the opportunity.  It goes without saying that their literature, poets and authors have always grabbed my undivided attention.  But the natives I spoke to say it is a difficult and harsh country to live in if you are not wealthy and don’t have powerful connections.  From what I have read, it has always been this way.

Berlusconi and his fellow politicians are about to pass new laws curtailing the Italian press from reporting sensitive issues like what the men in government, and in other institutions such as banking,  get up to in their private lives. Berlusconi tells ‘his people’ that the new rules are necessary to protect citizens’ privacy. “In Italy, we are all spied upon,” he said recently in the law’s defense.  The press are on strike.

The prime minister speaks from experience. Last year, wiretap transcripts were published revealing that he was hosting select parties where young women, including call girls, were the star attraction. Another intercept revealed how he had asked a manager of public television “about girls,” to help “raise the boss’s morale.” The incidents were reported to have led to his divorce from his second wife because she asked him to apologise to her for his behaviour,  and put him at odds with the Catholic Church.  He informed  the press that his wife had no right to insult him in public.

The following piece taken from an article by Alessandro Speciale — Special to GlobalPost Published: June 29, 2010 06:49 ET in European article:

On July 29, Berlusconi ousted Fini — the charismatic, current speaker of the Lower Chamber of the Italian parliament — from his People of Freedom party, accusing the party co-founder of being “totally incompatible” with its principles. He also contended that Fini was waging a shadow “political opposition” within his own party, trying to administer a “slow death” to it.

He had reason to be worried: 33 lawmakers from the lower house of parliament and 10 from the Senate abandoned the People of Freedom upon Fini’s departure, leaving Berlusconi five votes short of a majority in the lower house and with a wafer-thin majority of two votes in the upper house.Fini has pledged support for Berlusconi on an ad hoc basis, vowing to fight fiercely against proposals that are “unfair or damaging to the wider interest.”

Sounds similar to the political stalemate here in Australia…

See Posts… Berlusconi Lives For Another Day

Shame On You Mr Berlusconi!

God’s Callgirl-a memoir

My childhood was spent in Roman Catholic institutions and my mother was a novice nun before her marriage (see ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’), so  these two books were of personal interest to me.   But of course they are both well written and interesting books in their own right, well worth the reading.

Carla Van Raay’s book God’s Callgirl is a perspective of the depths, in my opinion,  of how far Catholicism has sunk since the beginnings of Christianity and the teachings of Jesus.  Carla tells us  about her life from her upbringing within a strict Catholic family,  sexual and physical abuse by her father,  to her entry into a convent as a teenager and her later life as a sex worker. Her life in the convent was spent in prayer and unpaid drudgery, such as cleaning, teaching and needlework (which the convent sold) and when she finally leaves the convent she discovers her parents, who were not well off, were charged by the nuns for Carla’s board and keep!  She re-enters the real world as an innocent in every sense of the word. The convent was run by spiteful and cruel nuns within a strict hierarchy.  The convent’s inhabitants were called ‘The Faithful Companions of Jesus’, ironic to say the least.  Carla triumphs despite the best efforts of her parents and Catholicism.

My mother’s life was also one of hardship and emotional abuse in her convent which was called the ‘Home Of Compassion’.  My mother and I,  like Carla,  never experienced or witnessed any real and heart-felt compassion in any Catholic institutions!  In light of what is being exposed within the Catholic Church in recent times, it brings to my mind that saying  ‘The higher you fly, the further you fall’.

-Anne Frandi-Coory 8 July 2010

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A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening – a novel

 

 

Mario De Carvalho’s book A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening is well researched which is apparent when he takes the reader back to Rome around the time of Jesus.  The narrator is a Roman provincial official with whom we travel on  his rounds of duties in the township where he lives, in amongst slaves and the rest of the populace.  We learn how Roman officials spent their days and how they treated their women and their slaves.  He describes in detail his living quarters and official buildings and how governing decisions of the time were reached.  The book is  set in the era of Jesus’ preaching and that of his ragtag bands of followers.  Rome was then suspicious of their motives, before the time when Rome would eventually embrace this new religion as the state’s own.  Added to that, many felt threatened and alarmed by the way these ‘new sect’  devotees dressed and behaved.  It just wasn’t the Roman way.  Persecutions and killings of Jesus’  followers was rife but in spite of this, the bands grew in number and they willingly became martyrs for their new beliefs; they felt close to Jesus  spiritually, copied his  acts of compassion for the poor.  His God seemed a more humane one than the various Roman gods.  Rome and her officials were sinking into corruption and the poor suffered greatly at their hands.  For a Roman Official to speak out for a pleb or a slave, was not self-serving; demotion or  exile from one’s town , often both,  would be the outcome. -Anne Frandi-Coory 8 July 2010

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