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Churches row over 'paedophilia' interview

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09:28 CEST+02:00
The Pentecostalist Church in Sweden has launched protests against the Church of Sweden after a priest gave an interpretation of the Bible which it claims is a defence of paedophilia.

Church of Sweden priest Niklas Olaison, a specialist in 'queer interpretations' of the Bible, presented his interpretation of chapter 8 of the Gospel of Matthew in an interview in church magazine Sthlmsliv.

The chapter features a Roman centurion who comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his slave. Olaison argued that the officer probably had a sexual relationship with the slave boy.

"When Jesus heals the boy he confirms the unarticulated relationship between the man and the boy," said Olaison.

Sten-Gunnar Hedin, leader of the Swedish Pentecostalist movement, has reacted angrily to the piece. He is calling on members of his church, 85 percent of whom are estimated to also be members of the Church of Sweden, to leave the national church.

"No gesture can be too powerful to make the point that this is something one may not even imply. The interpretation is so odd that there cannot be a defence for it," Hedin told TT.

Hedin says that of the Pentecostalist Church's 90,000 members, 85 percent are also members of the Church of Sweden.

Olaison released a statement on the website of the Diocese of Stockholm saying that he was in no way defending paedophilia. He apologized for any misunderstanding. He said that it was not certain that the slave was a child. He added that he wanted to show that the relationship between the centurion and the slave was unequal.

Åke Bonnier, dean of Stockholm and publisher of Sthlmsliv, said the interview contained a number of passages that were unfortunately phrased.

"The important thing when you read the article is to try to look behind the phrasing and understand what Olaison really wants to say." Regarding Hedin's call for Pentecostalists to leave the Church of Sweden, he said it was "unfortunate when people from one church attack people from another."

The controversial passage:

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,

And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.

The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.

For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Matthew 8, v. 5-13 (King James version)

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