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 CNS Story:

POPE-POTTER Jul-14-2005 (430 words) xxxi

New attention given to 2003 Cardinal Ratzinger letter on Harry Potter

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With the sixth volume of the adventures of Harry Potter, the teen wizard, about to be released, new attention was being given to a 2003 letter from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Although the Vatican press office July 14 said it would have no comment on the letter since Pope Benedict XVI and his secretary were on vacation in the northern Italian Alps, a former Vatican official said Harry Potter books must be read as children's literature, not theology.

Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, wrote to Gabriele Kuby to acknowledge receipt of her book, "Harry Potter: Gut oder Bose" ("Harry Potter: Good or Bad"), which expresses her concern that children can become fascinated with the occult through reading the series.

In the cardinal's letter, excerpted on Kuby's Web site and published widely since late June, he praised the author's attempt to "enlighten people about Harry Potter" and the possible "subtle seductions" that can distort children's thinking before they mature in the Christian faith.

Cardinal Ratzinger did not say if he had read any of the Harry Potter books.

In connection with the July 16 release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the letter to Kuby received new attention.

In the letter, Cardinal Ratzinger suggested Kuby send a copy of her book to Msgr. Peter Fleetwood, then an official at the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Msgr. Fleetwood told Catholic News Service July 14 that he received a copy of the book in 2003 and wrote Kuby a four-page letter explaining where he thought she may have misunderstood or read too much into the books. He said he never heard back from her.

The monsignor, now an official of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, said the primary focus of parents and teachers he has spoken with about the books is how enthusiastic children are about reading them.

On a moral level, he said, the books "pit good against evil, and good always wins."

"The people who complain about Harry Potter are the same people who complain about priests, bishops and catechists watering down church teaching about the devil and evil," he said.

In J.K. Rowling's books, he said, "Harry is the only one not afraid to name Voldemort -- whom the others all refer to as 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.' Because he names evil, he is not afraid of it," but can confront it.

Msgr. Fleetwood said the most appropriate way to judge Harry Potter is not on the basis of theology, but according to the criteria of children's literature and whether children will read the books willingly.


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