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Pope's book clears Jews in death of Jesus

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity in a new book.

In "Jesus of Nazareth-Part II" excerpts released Wednesday, Benedict explains biblically and theologically why there is no basis in Scripture for the argument that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for Jesus' death.

Interpretations to the contrary have been used for centuries to justify the persecution of Jews.

While the Catholic Church has for five decades taught that Jews weren't collectively responsible, Jewish scholars said Wednesday that the argument laid out by the pontiff, who has had his share of mishaps with Jews, was a landmark statement from a pope that would help fight anti-Semitism today.

Pakistani slain over religious law

ISLAMABAD — Militants gunned down the only Christian in Pakistan's government outside his widowed mother's home, the second assassination in two months of a high-profile opponent of laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam.

Shahbaz Bhatti was aware of the danger he faced, saying in a videotaped message that he had received death threats from al-Qaida and the Taliban. In it, the 42-year-old Roman Catholic said he was "ready to die" for the country's often persecuted Christian and other non-Muslim minorities.

Wednesday's slaying in Islamabad followed the killing of Salman Taseer. Both men had campaigned to change blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

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