Pope Launches News.VA

Reuters Pictures – A woman checks the new Vatican portal on an iPad device in Rome June 28, 2011. Pope Benedict XVI will launch the site, a news information portal that aggregates the Vatican’s various media into a one-stop site for all things papal, on Wednesday, the 60th anniversary of his ordination into the priesthood.

HTOverheard in the Sacristy

And he launched it with a historic Tweet:

Twitter welcomed a new user Tuesday – one who already has more than one billion followers.

Pope Benedict XVI used Twitter to announce the launch of a new Vatican website, timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of his ordination as a priest.

The website,, showed a photo of the pope with what appeared to be an iPad.

“The pope sent it, but it was prepared for him,” Benedict’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told CNN. “The tablet was presented to him. He did the click and sent the tweet.”

It was the pope’s first tweet, Lombardi confirmed.

“Dear Friends, I just launched Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI,” the message said.

The pope himself may be new to Twitter, but the Vatican has been reasonably web-savvy for years, including launching an iPhone app and a Facebook page for the beatification of Pope John Paul II this year.

Benedict’s tweet came on the English news feed for the Vatican, @news_va_en

Vatican News.VA is here. There’s a lot to check out!


Girls as Young as One Forced to Have Sex Change Operations in India!


Girls as young as one are being forced into sex change operations in India by parents desperate for a son.

Surgeons in the city of Indore are reported to be ‘converting’ hundreds of girls a year, who are subsequently pumped full of hormone drugs.

A report in the respected Hindustan Times newspaper said the ‘shocking, unprecedented trend, catering to the fetish for a son, is unfolding at conservative Indore’s well-known clinics and hospitals on children who are one to five years old.


‘The process being used to ‘produce’ a male child from a female is known as genitoplasty.’

Indian society places a strong value on producing a son and heir, with daughters often seen as an expensive burden to be married off.

Sex determination tests during pregnancy are illegal in India to try to prevent the common practice of women choosing to abort female foetuses.

In some states such as Punjab the ratio of women to men has dropped as low as seven to ten.

Wealthy parents from Delhi and Mumbai are reportedly flocking to Indore, a city in the centre of India, for the relatively low cost £2,000 treatment to surgically ‘correct’ their daughters.

News of rampant abuse of the surgery – normally used to correct genital abnormality in fully-grown patients – led to a furious backlash on Twitter and other social networking sites on Sunday.

The author and feminist Taslima Nasreen led the outrage, tweeting: ‘Shocking! Not only do people kill unborn girls, they turn girls into boys by genitoplasty.’

She added: ‘Doctors who practice illegal Female Foeticide & Genitoplasty should get life in prison.’

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights today announced it had asked the state government of Madhya Pradesh to investigate the doctors and the hospitals named in the report…

There is more on this outrage here.


Accused Priests Are Not Thrown Under the Bus…

So says Archbishop Chaput:

Priests aren’t being “thrown under the bus,” if the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” is followed correctly, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver affirmed.

During their spring general meeting in mid-June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved minor changes to the charter, known popularly as the Dallas Charter, and related norms. The bishops, meeting in Seattle, resisted calls by some victims’ groups for a broader review of their framework for guarding against child sexual abuse by priests and other Church personnel.

Bishop Blase Cupich, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, argued that the recent John Jay College of Criminal Justice report on the causes and contexts of the clergy-abuse crisis, and ongoing annual audits conducted by dioceses throughout the nation, confirmed that the reforms are working and should remain in place. He predicted that the conference would review the framework within two years. In 2010, the USCCB confirmed just seven new cases of child sexual abuse.

Archbishop Chaput has confronted the problem of clergy sexual abuse in his archdiocese. He also addressed the broader impact of clergy misconduct on a global religious order as the Vatican’s U.S. apostolic investigator of the Legion of Christ. He has emerged as one of the Vatican’s “go-to” episcopal investigators.

Read more here.
Bible Archaeology

Mummy Stash Found in Italian Church:

Discovery has news and photos of the find:

Hundreds of bodies stacked one of top of the other emerged during restoration work in the church of Roccapelago, a remote mountain village in north-central Italy.

About one-third of the mass grave, consisting of 281 bodies of adults, infants and children, turned out to be mummies.

“We found about 100 mummies. We can say that an entire community, who lived here from the mid-16th to the 18th centuries, has been naturally mummified. This is quite unique,” Donato Labate and colleagues from the Archaeological Superintendency of Emilia Romagna said.

More photos here.