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Pope Will Not Attend 'Nativity' Screening

By:
Nov 24, 2006 | 7:54am EST

Pope Benedict XVI has turned down an invitation to attend the premiere of new movie The Nativity Story on Sunday, even though it will be screened in the Vatican.

Sixteen-year-old Whale Rider actress Keisha Castle-Hughes stars as Jesus' mother, Mary, but the fact the New Zealander is pregnant and unmarried is said to have embarrassed the Catholic Church.

A Vatican spokesperson insists the Pope was always going to be unable to attend due to a planned visit to Turkey, adding, "The surprise would have been if he had (attended)."

The Vatican premiere, to be held at the Aulo Paolo VI Hall, will be attended by director Catherine Hardwicke and Oscar nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo, who plays Elizabeth in the film.

The event will serve as a benefit, with contributions going towards the construction of a school in Israel, located near Nazareth, where the film's story is set.

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