COLOGNE, March 2, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday and Pancake Tuesday are among the many names for the custom of keeping a festival on the last day before the beginning of the Christian penitential season of Lent. In most countries that have European roots, Mardi Gras has always included elements mocking Catholic ceremonies and customs.
But the tone has changed since the growth of what Christians are recognizing as a new militant secularism that specifically fosters hatred of Christianity. One skit planned for Cologne features the Pope and the Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne as homosexual pop stars who end up in bed together. Last year, a float in the Dusseldorf parade showed Cardinal Meisner striking a match to a pregnant woman tied to the stake, the words "I had an abortion" written on her. The float’s caption read, “Fostering Tradition.”
The custom for making fun of Cathlic symbols goes back to the middle ages said Matthias von der Bank, a historian from Cologne's Carnival Museum said, “In the Middle Ages, carnival was a festival of reverse worlds and a playful expression of this," von der Bank said. "So Christian symbols, for example, were turned upside down.”
Von der Bank said, however, that the tone today has changed from playful satire to one of vicious attack. Slandering the church was not part of carnival's festivities he told a German newspaper.
“Our philosophy is that Carnival should be fun and friendly,” Sigrid Krebs, spokesman for the Cologne carnival committee said. "But they have never been aimed at harming or offending people nor will they in the future," Krebs said.
Although the rule of the Düsseldorf carnival committee was that there would be no floats dealing with religion this year, parade organizers seem to feel that Catholicism does not qualify. A float in the Dusseldorf parade featured a statue of Pope Benedict wearing the jersey of the often-defeated soccer team Fortune. The message was clear: the Catholic Church is the losing team and attacking it is acceptable.
Bernd Jost, spokesman for the Dusseldorf carnival committee said that the religion the committee wants to exempt is Islam. “In view of the current debate, we will be keeping very clear of things related to Muslims,” Jost said. “We don't want to fuel hatred,” Jost said. But he admitted that the real motive is the need to keep parade spectators safe.
Last year’s parade floats reflected a more egalitarian secularism and included one in which a Muslim Imam was crawling out of a hamburger.
Jacques Tilly, an organizer of Dusseldorf’s parade said he thought the restriction was a compromise. Reflecting a more even-handed antipathy for religion, Tilly said, “Religion is in my eyes a delusion and hence should be mocked. The humour depicted on the floats simply needs to have some bite otherwise there is little point.”
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