Large spider upstages Catholic creepy-crawly on Czech television

POPE Ratzinger warned godless Czechs this weekend that societies exclude God at their peril.

History has demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions.

But it wasn’t his televised message that mesmerised millions, but a large spider that went directly for the pontiff neck. There´s a good video of the spider´s progress on the link.

The spider appeared on the pope’s white robes as he addressed politicians and diplomats in Prague on Saturday afternoon.

The Pope didn’t seem to notice at first — but journalists following the speech on a large screen flinched as the spider inched toward Benedict’s neck.

It disappeared from view for a moment, but then could be seen crawling up the right side of the 82-year-old pontiff’s face.

When it reached his ear, Ratzi gave it a swat. But it didn’t go away — it reappeared on the pope’s left shoulder and scampered down his robe.

As the pope left the medieval Prague Castle’s ornate Spanish Hall, the spider could be seen hanging from a strand of web.

According to this report, the 82-year-old pontiff was making the three-day visit as Czechs prepare to mark 20 years since their 1989 Velvet Revolution shook off an atheistic communist regime that ruthlessly persecuted the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pope warned that technical progress was not enough to “guarantee the moral welfare of society.”

Man needs to be liberated from material oppressions, but more profoundly, he must be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit.

Ratzinger is using the trip to recall communist-era religious repression and urge Czechs to reconsider a faith many have abandoned.

The Czech Republic is one of the most secular countries in Europe. In 1991, 4.5 million of the country’s 10 million people said they belonged to a church, but a 2001 census showed that number had plunged to 3.3 million. Recent surveys suggest the number of believers remains low; about one in two respondents to a poll conducted by the agency STEM said they don’t believe in God.

NOTE: I am on a fortnight´s break in Spain, and will be updating the site from the Costa Blanca. Until I get a proper mobile internet connection, postings may be without illustrations.