August 6, 2006

Madonna “crucified” in Rome, Vatican protests

By Rachel Sanderson

ROME (Reuters) - Madonna staged a mock-crucifixion in the
Italian capital on Sunday, ignoring a storm of protest and
accusations of blasphemy from the Roman Catholic Church.

In a sold-out stadium just a mile from Vatican City, the
lapsed-Catholic diva wore a fake crown of thorns as she was
raised on a glittery cross during the Rome stop of her
worldwide "Confessions Tour."

The Vatican had accused her of blasphemy and provocation
for even considering staging the sham crucifixion on its
doorstep, anger Madonna further enflamed prior to the show by
inviting Pope Benedict to come and watch.

The self-styled "Queen of Pop" went on to pepper her
two-and-a-half hour show with more controversial imagery, at
one point showing photographs of the pope after those of former
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

"Did you know two miracles have taken place in Rome?," the
star, dressed in skin-skimming black, later joked with the
crowd. "Italy won the World Cup and the rain stopped before my

The 70,000 fans, crammed into the Olympic Stadium, shrugged
off the scandal, by dancing, singing and jumping as she
performed songs from her latest album "Confessions on a Dance
Floor" and classics, such as "Like a Virgin."

Yet, the cheering lulled when she was raised on the cross
and some fans from predominantly Roman Catholic Italy confessed
their disappointment.

"The crucifixion was unnecessary and provocative. Because
this is Rome, I wish she'd cut it out. But it's Madonna, she's
an icon, and that balances out her need to provoke," said
39-year old Roman, Tonia Valerio.

It is not the first time Madonna, whose father is a
Catholic Italian American, has caused religious anger for her
controversial religious and sexual imagery.

Catholic leaders condemned as blasphemous her 1989 video
for hit song "Like a Prayer," featuring burning crosses,
statues crying blood and Madonna seducing a black Jesus.

In 2004, a Vatican group warned that her latest religious
belief "Kabbalah," a mystical from of Judaism, was a potential
threat to the Roman Catholic faithful.

And she looks likely to face another storm when the tour
reaches Moscow in September, where the Russian Orthodox Church
has advised its followers to boycott the show because of the
crucifixion stunt, agency Interfax reported on Saturday.