Error in book shows Pope not infallible

VATICAN CITY Tue Apr 17, 2007 4:14pm BST

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict is not infallible -- there is an error in his latest book.

Catholic bloggers reading his "Jesus of Nazareth," which went on sale in Italy and Germany on Monday, have taken up the Pope's invitation to criticise his work by pointing out that he wrongly identified a U.S. theologian.

In a paragraph citing important recent books about Jesus, he identifies Notre Dame University professor John Meier as a member of the Jesuit order of Catholic priests. Meier is not a Jesuit but a priest of the New York diocese.

"The Pope is not infallible -- there's a little mistake in his last book," Italian religion journalist Sandro Magister said in his blog Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven).

Benedict, who began writing the book before his election in 2005, said in the introduction that his portrayal of Jesus was his personal view and not official Roman Catholic teaching. "Therefore, everyone is free to contradict me," he wrote.

After quoting that passage, Magister wrote "OK -- here's where the Pope can be caught in the act" and cited the mistake on page 410 of the Italian edition.

Magister credited another U.S. theologian, Father Robert Imbelli of Boston College, with first spotting the error.

Papal infallibility, which says the Pope cannot err in declaring doctrine on faith and morals, is rarely invoked and would not apply to this book. But catching the meticulous Pope in a mistake proved too tempting for the bloggers to pass up.

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