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The News You May Have Missed: June 2023

A “Sexy” Sacramental?

Quo Vadis, an Austrian group representing Catholic nuns and monks, hosted a free-of-charge tattooing event near Vienna’s iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Agence France-Presse, April 17). “It’s important for the church to look at how people express their piety, including on their bodies,” said Christopher Paul Campbell, director of Quo Vadis. He added that the Church has to “learn to be sexy” if she wants to keep attracting followers. Hundreds were keen to attend the first tattoo session, and the dozens of slots available were granted by lottery. The night before, the German tattoo artist, his needles, and everyone waiting to get tattooed were blessed at a special Mass. Tattoo recipients could select from a menu of Christian designs, including crosses and fishes. The event attracted hate mail. “I got the criticism that we’ve turned the Church into a disco. I say: okay, then I’m the DJ,” countered Fr. Sandesh Manuel. The Franciscan monk, who wears a baseball cap and likes to rap, got inked with the words “Humanity is the greeting of religion.”


Miracle of the Phalanges

A row erupted after a Missouri megachurch claimed that an amputee’s toes regrew through the power of prayer — prompting mockers to launch a website called ShowMeTheToes.com (Independent, March 24). Guest Pastor Bill Johnson claims that members of James River Church in Springfield performed a so-called creative miracle on congregant Kristina Dines, 46, who had three toes amputated in 2015. During Johnson’s sermon as part of a “Week of Power” prayer revival, a group of churchgoers began praying over Dines. As they prayed, her missing toes allegedly began to grow back. “They saw the bone come, wrapped in flesh. And by morning, the toenails, everything had formed,” Johnson said. “She got three brand new toes.” A doctor, who is married to one of the women who prayed for the toe regrowth, examined Dines’s feet and confirmed that three new toes had appeared. Despite the extraordinary claim, there is no photo or video evidence. This isn’t the first time Johnson has been embroiled in controversy. In 2019 he led a California church in an unsuccessful attempt to resurrect a deceased two-year-old girl.


Perceiving the Ptolemaic Past

Researchers have decoded a hidden manuscript on recycled parchment believed to have been written by Claudius Ptolemy, a second-century Greek mathematician, astronomer, and geographer. A team from the Sorbonne and New York Universities determined it is Ptolemy’s long-lost manual about a tool for calculating heights and distances, often in relation to celestial bodies. “The pages in the manuscript with the scarcely visible Greek text were discovered back in 1819 by Angelo Mai, but he was unable to read most of the pages,” said Alexander Jones, a lead researcher. Mai “made the situation much worse” by “applying a chemical treatment to the pages that was supposed to bring out the writing but in fact just stained them dark brown.” Analyzing the manuscript using multispectral imaging techniques, the team deciphered Ptolemy’s instructions for the construction and use of a nine-ringed instrument he called the “Meteoroscope.” Though he referenced it in other texts, including Geography, his book on mapmaking, details of its structure and operation were lacking until now (Newsweek, March 28).


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