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Vatican comes to the defense of pope's book on Christmas

Published: Saturday, Dec. 1 2012 8:30 a.m. MST

Bloggers had a heyday with Pope Benedict's new book about the Christmas story when it hit bookshelves just before Thanksgiving.

"Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives" came out Nov. 20, and media reviews of the pope's scholarly analysis latched on to a few tidbits that questioned the historical veracity of the animals at the stable, angels singing, the motives of the three wise men and the true date of Jesus' birth.

A tongue-in-cheek story by Reuters of the publicity that backfired had an entertaining list of the headlines the pope's book generated.

"Killjoy pope crushes Christmas nativity traditions."

"Pope sets out to debunk Christmas myths," ran another.

The story said some blogs unceremoniously branded Benedict the new Grinch that stole Christmas and one rocketed him to the "top of the grumpy list for 2012."

This week, the Vatican's unofficial newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, showed that Catholic leaders were not amused, according to Religion News Service.

"Spanish theologian Jose Maria Gil Tamayo labeled the 'media confusion' as another 'symptom' of the 'widespread and silent marginalization of God' in contemporary society," the RNS reported.

The aspect of the Christmas story that generated the most heat for the pope was his observation that the gospels make no mention of animals in the stable where Jesus was born.

What was left out in the coverage was Benedict's explanation that the tradition of the these animals came from reflecting on parts of the Old and New Testaments. Christian iconography then adopted the motif early in church history to show that even animals knew Jesus was the son of God.

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