Vatican in front page attack on BBC

By Ian Dunt

The Vatican's official newspaper has issued a front-page attack on the BBC over a row surrounding the use of AD and BC to establish dates.

The L’Osservatore Romano, which functions as a mouthpiece for the Holy See, branded the corporation "anti-historical and senseless" in a withering editorial which echoes the Pope's attack on Britain's "aggressive secularism" when he was in the UK.

"It is by now very clear that respect for other religions is only an excuse, because those who wish to erase every trace of Christianity from Western culture are only a few secular westerners," the paper said.

"The BBC has limited itself to changing only the description, rather than the computation of time, but in doing so, it cannot be denied that it has made a hypocritical gesture: the hypocrisy of those who pretend not to know why years began to be counted precisely from that moment.

"To deny the historically revolutionary function of the coming of Christ on the earth, accepted even by those who do not recognise him as Son of God, is enormous nonsense.

"There is nothing more anti-historical and senseless."

The newspaper's vitriol may be misguided, given that the BBC has categorically denied the reports, which first emerged in the Daily Mail.

Even the newspaper's own columnists admitted that the supposed demand that BBC presenters use the secular BCE/CE (Before Common Era/Common Era) rather than the Christian BC/AD did not form official guidance but was in fact found in a section on religious practise on the website.

"We have issued no editorial guidelines or instructions to suggest that anyone in the BBC should change the terms they use," said Aaqil Ahmed, BBC head of religion & ethics.

"The BBC, like most people, use BC and AD as standard terminology. But we recognise that it is possible to use different terminology, and that some people do: that is what is reflected on our religion website. Even though we told the newspaper this, they ran the story anyway."

The use of BCE/CE would date to the same moment as the Gregorian calendar, but omit a specific mention of Christ.