QUIRKY WORLD ... Our daily look at some of the world’s stranger stories

ITALY:

QUIRKY WORLD ... Our daily look at some of the world’s stranger stories

A tube containing Pope John Paul II’s blood has been stolen from a church in Italy, sparking a region-wide search involving sniffer dogs and 50 police officers.

The vial was stolen on Saturday from the San Pietro della Ienca church in the Abruzzo region in central Italy where the Polish pope, who died in 2005, loved to go on skiing holidays, according to the Repubblica daily.

Police and sniffer dogs are sweeping the area, famed for its weathered stone houses and the little church where the head of the Catholic Church once reportedly took refuge in a storm.

Pasquale Corriere, head of the San Pietro della Ienca association, said there are only three vials in the world containing the former pontiff’s blood.

John Paul II and the Italian Pope John XXIII — known as the “good pope” — are set to become saints in a ceremony at the Vatican in April.

ISRAEL: The love life of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son is setting off sparks in Israeli politics.

News that 23-year-old Yair Netanyahu is dating a non-Jewish Norwegian university student has generated interest not just in gossip columns but has also prompted an uproar from religious lawmakers.

Orthodox Judaism prohibits intermarriage.

According to reports in Norwegian media, the Israeli prime minister boasted to his Norwegian counterpart, Erna Solberg, about the relationship during a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week and informed her that his son recently visited Norway with his girlfriend.

Yesterday, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party said he believed the relationship actually caused Netanyahu and his wife great “heartache”. Arieh Deri told a radio station the relationship was no mere personal matter because Netanyahu is a “symbol of the Jewish people”. Other groups called on Netanyahu to put a stop to it and even his brother-in-law took spoke out against the relationship on radio.

Netanyahu’s office has declined to comment.

ITALY: Maverick striker Mario Balotelli needs love and will eventually learn from his mistakes, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said yesterday.

“Balotelli will learn,” Prandelli told reporters. “He will need a lot of love, he is a guy who we give a lot to and is important for Milan.”

The AC Milan forward added to his long list of misdemeanours on Sunday when he was booked for making what Italian media described as a vulgar gesture to Cagliari supporters after scoring in his side’s 2-1 win.

He was booked for the incident and then got into an altercation with Cagliari defenders.

Prandelli, who has dropped Balotelli in the past for misbehaving with his club, said he was encouraged by comments from Milan’s new coach Clarence Seedorf.

“Seedorf has used the right words with Balotelli,” said Prandelli. “I’m sure that with his help we can get the best out of Mario.”

SPAIN: It was a short story, then a Hollywood movie. Now the tragic tale of two cowboys in love is being reinvented again as Brokeback Mountain — the opera.

Ahead of its world premiere today in Madrid, author Annie Proulx told the Associated Press that opera presented a chance to explore the complexities of the tale in a way that neither her own story nor the movie by director Ang Lee were able to do.

Proulx said she “rejoiced” when composer Charles Wuorinen approached her to write the libretto, because she understood that an opera “would give room, which the short story did not, and which the film was not particularly interested in doing”, to open up the characters involved in the doomed love affair.

Wuorinen said he tried to give the menacing nature of the rugged Wyoming landscape a greater presence in the opera than in the previous versions.

“It is very beautiful, as the film shows,” Wuorinen told AP, “but it is definitely not sentimental. It is not a romantic landscape. It’s a deadly one — it’s dangerous.”

Love scenes between Del Mar and fellow cowboy Jack Twist, performed by American tenor Tom Randle — which caused a stir when the movie first aired — are depicted discreetly on the opera’s minimalist stage.

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