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The memory of Judas may be rehabilitated

Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver, and reviled as the ultimate symbol of betrayal, is getting a chance to redeem himself according to Vatican scholars, Europe’s media are speculating.

"Judas was doing God’s business and so might just as easily be deemed a saint as an ultimate sinner," wrote Peter Stanford, a former editor of the Catholic Herald, in the Daily Mail newspaper.

That reading on the acts of the man who has often been seen as a powerful symbol for treachery was also supported by a contributor to the London Times newspaper.

"The Judas myth helped to shape 2000 years of anti-Semitism. It remains illegal to name a child Judas in Germany," commented Ben Macintyre in The Times.

The newspaper reported that a campaign led by Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, head of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science at the Vatican, is seeking to persuade believers to look more kindly at Jesus’ disciple, often blamed for enabling the crucifixion to take place.

St Luke wrote that "Satan entered into Judas".

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper quoted Vittorio Messori, a Roman Catholic writer close to both Pope Benedict XVI and the late John Paul II, saying that the rehabilitation of Judas would "resolve the problem of an apparent lack of mercy by Jesus towards one of his closest collaborators". He told La Stampa that according to one Christian tradition, Judas was forgiven by Jesus and ordered to purify himself with "spiritual exercises" in the desert.

Switzerland’s Basel-based Maecenas Foundation has said that at Easter it will publish a copy of a 62-page papyrus manuscript of the text of a gospel according to Judas, discovered in Egypt almost 60 years ago.

The London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that although the text has not been made public, discussions in academic circles suggested it would claim that Judas was acting at the behest of God when he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

(c) Ecumenical News International