Celebration, anniversary and death by Stephen Pittman

Pope Francis is, reportedly, in trouble for his sense of humour. Director, Tony Kearney has been filming a documentary about Scottish seminarians in Rome. In one scene, students present the pope with a bottle of whiskey. Kearney said: “When they handed him the bottle, instead of just handing it to his assistant, he held it up and said 'questa e la vera acqua santa' which means 'this is the real holy water'." But now, the Vatican media office has asked Kearney to cut the scene – they didn’t want the pope to be seen endorsing scotch!

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Stephen P

Hard to believe that Jesus Christ Superstar is 50 years old this week. Feels as though it’s always been there. The original production opened on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on 12 October 1971. Such a topic was always going to be controversial. In fact, the BBC banned the 1970 concept album for being sacrilegious. Earlier tellings of the story – Stainer’s Crucifixion and Handel’s 1716 The Passion of Christ – were choral works with the characters sung by soloists. “People have read so much more into this than we ever intended,” lyricist Tim Rice told The New York Times in a 1971 interview. “We were simply trying to express our feelings about Christ at the time, trying to tell his story and make suggestions for the gaps. We weren't trying to make a comment.

Superstar

Who are we to make a comment?” But they did make a comment – a wonderful set of tunes. And those final sounds of the nails being driven in will never be comfortable listening.

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There’s something rather wonderful about a giant puppet walking through the city streets. Is this theatre or an event? Whichever, it will always attract a crowd. The latest – Little Amal – is more than entertainment. This twice life-size marionette bears a message on behalf of the thousands of children who have fled war and persecution: “Don’t forget about us”. She has already met Pope Francis and is due to stop at Westminster Cathedral later this month, on her way to Manchester. Let’s hope Home Secretary Priti Patel finds time to hear her.

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A Missouri man was executed on Tuesday for the fatal shootings of three shopworkers in 1994. Ernest Johnson was born with foetal alcohol syndrome. And his lawyers argued he was ineligible for the death penalty because multiple IQ tests had shown he had the mental capacity of a child and read at a primary school level. His appeal for clemency was backed by Pope Francis. Last week, a representative of the pope wrote to Missouri's governor that the pope “wishes to place before you the simple fact of Mr Johnson’s humanity and the sacredness of all human life”. All to no avail. After 26 years of wondering when it would happen, Ernest Johnson was led away and killed by lethal injection. May God be good to him.

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