Rome: Pope Benedict XVI is trying to combat efforts to rehabilitate Christianity's most hated villain after the presentation this month of a newly discovered ``gospel according to Judas.'' In his first Easter sermon at St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope said Judas was a greedy liar: ``He evaluated Jesus in terms of power and success. For him, only power and success were real. Love didn't count.'' In Washington this month, the National Geographic Society unveiled a leather-bound papyrus written in around AD300 that gives Judas's side of the story behind the most notorious deception in religious history.
The 26-page manuscript says Judas was singled out by Christ from the other apostles and entrusted with revealing his whereabouts to the Romans. ``You will exceed all of them,'' the papyrus quotes Jesus as saying. ``For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.'' The Pope's allusions to power and success may have been a nod in that direction.
But otherwise his interpretation was strictly orthodox. ``The money was more important than communion with Jesus, more important than God and His love,'' he told a congregation in the Basilica of St John Lateran. The pontiff did not make a specific allusion to the papyrus, but his sermon was clearly intended to counter it. ``He became hardened, incapable of conversion, of the trusting return of the prodigal son, and threw away his ruined life,'' the Pope said. Writing in Corriere della Sera, the journalist Vittorio Messori, who wrote a book with the Pope, said the pontiff's approach was ``the strictest interpretation of the mystery of the betrayal.''
- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006