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Brussels Mayor Derides Pontiff, Loses His Powers

March 19, 1994|From Associated Press

BRUSSELS — The mayor of Brussels, capital of a Roman Catholic nation, was stripped of most of his powers by the City Council on Friday after making irreverent comments about Pope John Paul II.

Michel Demaret, a former nightclub bouncer long known for his folksy style and lack of social graces, also said his own Christian Democratic Party was willing to take bribes and alleged that the Belgian judiciary was corrupt.

Last weekend, Demaret was quoted in Le Soir Illustre magazine as saying he did not care for the Pope's advice in general.

"Advice of who? Who is this man who doesn't know how to use a condom and puts it on the index?" His comments were a play on words, referring both to the church's practice of placing banned books on a blacklist, called the index, and to putting a condom on the index finger.

"The Pope? No, thank you," he said with a laugh.

John Paul will visit Belgium in May. The main Mass will be held in a Brussels park and, according to protocol, he should meet the mayor.

Demaret, 54, called in sick Friday, but the City Council went ahead and took away most of his powers in hopes that he will resign in the coming days.

His party withdrew support of him earlier this week. Elections were already planned for October.

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