It’s Columbus Day, so cue the celebrations – and reconsiderations.

Is Columbus really a Catholic hero — or an Italian hero? Was he even Italian? Did he even “discover” America? I’d point you to an interesting book published last year by Carol Delaney titled “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem,” which argues that Columbus sought a western route to the Orient not only for the gold but because of what it could buy: a new crusade to take Jerusalem from the Muslims before the end of the world.

Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. There are no known authentic portraits of Columbus, according to Wikipedia.

Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. There are no known authentic portraits of Columbus, according to Wikipedia. Photo via Wikipedia

Didn’t quite work out that way, and here we are. How about making it Bartholomé de las Casas Day instead? Who? Check it out.

Speaking of Muslims, young Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban, is the toast of the town, but our own Omid Safi has five points to try and put her back in perspective, if that’s possible.

No. 2: Malala is remarkable. She is not, however, exceptional.

Then there’s this: a book about the early life of the Prophet Muhammad written for a multi-generational audience by a Buddhist. Tracy Simmons has the story.

In Malaysia today a court ruled that non-Muslims – and specifically a Christian newspaper – cannot use the word Allah to refer to God, even in their own faiths.

Back to Catholics: The title of Timothy Egan’s interesting post at the New York Times has a pithy summary of the stance many are taking toward Pope Francis: “Lapsed, but Listening”

The bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, apparently wasn’t listening, at least not to Francis – the bishop is a German tabloid sensation for spending nearly $4 million renovating his own apartment and office. But he’ll have his chance: Tom Heneghen at Reuters reports that Tebartz-van Elst has flown to Rome to meet Vatican officials and possibly Pope Francis to decide his fate.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Bild newspaper has a breakdown of the pricey renovations of his own apartment including more than $400,000 for built-in-wardrobes, almost $1 million on a garden, and $20,000 on a bathtub.

The 53-year-old defends himself saying: “Those who know me, know that I don’t need any kind of grandiose lifestyle.”

Need or want?

BTW, I can’t show you this Lego riff on the Limburg bishop – copyright issues – but this link pretty much sums up the whole story if the numbers are confusing.

This does not bode well for the German bishop, by the way: at Mass this morning in the Vatican, Pope Francis warned of “an attitude of perfect piety” which looks at the doctrine of salvation but does not care for the “poor people.”

And here’s another priest who apparently wasn’t listening to the pope or anyone else:

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Rev. James McGonegal, pastor of a West Side Cleveland Catholic church, was charged today with soliciting sex while being HIV-positive.

On the other end of the spectrum, Greg Kandra points to the sad story of a young priest ordained in June who committed suicide. The account by Fr. Kevin Kayda’s seminary classmate is honest and poignant.

And John F. Kennedy’s rosary beads are up for auction this month, shortly before the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

Sports fans in Boston are true believers after both the Patriots and Red Sox staged miraculous comebacks on Sunday. But how about those Fordham Rams? 7-0 for the first time in 83 years. And the first Jesuit pope ever. That’s the Big Mo.

So Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who engineered the government shutdown fiasco, has few friends among leaders of his own party. But Christian conservatives love him, and gave him 42 percent of their votes at the Values Voters Summit on Saturday night – more than three times as many as the next runner up. Could that give him a head start on the 2016 nomination battle?

Cruz booster David Brody of CBN has more details of the voting.

Rod Dreher is not one of those conservative Christians. At all.

And this: White evangelicals are having some trouble with Asian stereotypes, and their Asian-American coreligionists are trying to educate them.

Looking to get married? Try attending a Christian college. Seriously:

“There’s a Lutheran boy for every Lutheran girl,” said Jeff Schone, vice president for student life at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn. “I’m being lighthearted when I say that. But it seems to be true.”

Russell Moore, my eight-year-old is green with envy:

Russell Moore, my eight-year-old could have predicted that:

Terrible story of nearly 100 killed in a stampede of Hindu pilgrims on a bridge in India. It’s far too common, as the New York Times report notes:

Mass deaths occur often at pilgrimages in India, when vast crowds put heavy burdens on transportation and safety infrastructure. In August, an express train was unable to stop and plowed into pilgrims crossing train tracks in Bihar State, killing more than 30 people. A similar number were trampled rushing to a train platform in February, marring the 55-day Kumbh Mela festival, whose crowds were estimated at 80 million.

Question of the Day comes from Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip and a big thinker:

Does God Have a Personality?

Does the Daily Religion Roundup have a personality? Too much? Too little? You can’t comment unless you sign up below. Pass it on. Thanks.

David Gibson

Categories: Culture

David Gibson

David Gibson

David Gibson is an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He is a national reporter for RNS and has written two books on Catholic topics, the latest a biography of Pope Benedict XVI.


  1. The writer of the caption of the alleged portrait of Christopher Columbus reproduced here (“Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. There are no known authentic portraits of Columbus, according to Wikipedia”) did not realize that his or her first and second sentences contradict each other.

    “Most striking about this painting is the legend that runs along the top. The inscription which identifies the sitter as Columbus was certainly included much later. There is also doubt about the signature. In those days it was an exceptional occurrence for an artist to sign a work (or to add a legend). It was probably added by the writer of the inscription to increase the value of the work” (Paul Martin Lester, “Looks Are Deceiving: the Portraits of Christopher Columbus,” Visual Anthropology, vol. 5, 1993, pp. 211-227).

    Thus, the safest statement to make at this time, and maybe for all time, is that we do not know who painted the painting, when it was painted, who painted the inscription, when it was painted, or whom the painting depicts.

    Those questions are important for a reason which may hitherto not have been mentioned: One of the pieces of evidence adduced by certain people in our times who have claimed that Columbus was a Jew is the position of four fingers (all but the thumb) on the man’s left hand, which they claim represents the Hebrew letter shin, which, they claim further, stands for the Hebrew word shaday (that word indeed begins with that letter), which is one of the Hebrew names of God.

    However, since it is not known who the sitter is, the painting cannot be adduced as evidence for that claim. Furthermore, countless paintings of people who were definitely not Jews show those four fingers in that position (my list is too long to give here).

    In sum, the painting, even if it turned out to be of Columbus, would, in light of my previous sentence (“Furthermore….”), be irrelevant to the question of whether he was a Jew.

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