(Photo: Reuters/ )
Pope Benedict XVI's latest book, The Infancy Narratives: Jesus of Nazareth, challenges popular beliefs about Jesus' birth, but Roman Catholic officials have squashed media headlines that seem to portray the pope as a sort of Christmas grinch.
"I think that what people need to realize here is that the pope is trying to be as historical as he can be," said Father Robert Dodaro, professor of patristics, or the study of early Church writings, at Rome's Patristic Institute.
"He wants to see the biblical narratives as history where possible but he is also trying to explain details in the narratives that cannot be historically verified," he added.
The 85-year-old pontiff argues in his book that Christ was born several years earlier than it has previously been thought, due to a miscalculated calendar. The popular nativity scene of oxen and donkeys standing above baby Jesus and Mary and Joseph in the manger may also not be entirely correct, as there were likely no animals present, according to Pope Benedict XVI.
A Reuters report points out, however, that several attention-grabbing media headlines have been trying to make it seem as if Benedict is attacking Christmas, and that following the release of the book, "Vatican officials found some headlines they were not expecting."
Some of the headlines identified by Reuters read: "Killjoy pope crushes Christmas nativity traditions," "Pope sets out to debunk Christmas myths," and even "Pope bans Christmas."
Other headlines that can be found around the Internet include: "The pope's war on Christmas," "Explaining the Pope's Christmas debunking book," and "Pope sets out to debunk Christian myths."
All of this apparently compelled Roman Catholic social network XT3 to publish a blog titled "The pope has not banned Christmas," reassuring believers that too much is being made of the Vatican leader's attempt to address popular traditions surrounding Jesus Christ's birth.
"No one's faith should be shaken by this book," Dodaro added. "On the contrary, it should be fortified by this account. This is a believable account of the birth of Christ."