While shepherds watch

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In the nick of time, a modern parable for Christmas. Ideally, these things are best set in the Holy Land, and this one comes from France, but it does have pedigree. There, high in the Alps, a shepherd has killed a wolf that he said had been killing his sheep. He has now been charged because the wolf – of which there are only about 30 left in the French Alps – is a protected species.

In the nick of time, a modern parable for Christmas. Ideally, these things are best set in the Holy Land, and this one comes from France, but it does have pedigree. There, high in the Alps, a shepherd has killed a wolf that he said had been killing his sheep. He has now been charged because the wolf – of which there are only about 30 left in the French Alps – is a protected species.

Thus: Christ's favourite symbolism, plus traditional virtues in conflict with new compassions, plus that spice-curse of the age, irony. No doubt a practised bishop would see the US and Iraq in there somewhere, too.

And you look to The Third Leader Department for a judgement? Well, John, Chapter X, is clear that the good shepherd must deal with the wolf, but not on the severity of deterrence. Hmm. Can you say boo to a wolf? We think, on the whole, that we'd rather not be a French shepherd.

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