Religious Leaders Get Cross With Madonna

The Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches may well differ on a few theological principles, but there’s no doubt Madonna‘s new stage show is making both religions – well, more than a little cross.

In keeping with Her Madge’s talent for unifying all sects and creeds, usually because either her live performance or a video clip causes them to gang up against her, she’s also got the Muslim and Jewish leaders sort of “up in arms” over the mock crucifixion scene in the set she’s currently touring through Europe.

The scene that’s causing so much uproar, and made the front page of Pollstar‘s July 24th mid-year issue, shows Madonna on a giant cross wearing a crown of thorns.

A Reuters report quoted Father Manfredo Leone from Rome’s Santa Maria Liberatrice church saying the show was “disrespectful, in bad taste and provocative.”

“Being raised on a cross with a crown of thorns like a modern Christ is absurd,” Father Leone continued.

“Doing it in the cradle of Christianity comes close to blasphemy.”

Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, a spokesman for the Vatican – which is about a couple of miles away from where Live Nation Italy’s August 6th Madonna show takes place – told national daily La Stampa: “To crucify yourself in the city of the pope and the martyrs is an act of open hostility. It’s a scandal created on purpose by astute merchants to attract publicity.”

What seems to have made matters worse is the Rome show, at the Olympic Stadium, happens to have landed on a Sunday.

Even religions that recognize different days of the week as being holy have joined in the general throng of protest.

Newswires quoted Mario Scialoja, president of the Muslim World League in Italy, saying, “It’s not the first time Madonna stages such an act. We deplore it. We feel it is an act of bad taste.”

“We express solidarity with the Catholic world,” said Riccardo Pacifici, spokesman for Rome’s Jewish community: “It’s a disrespectful act, and to do it in Rome is even worse.”

In Moscow, where Madonna’s slotted to play a September 11th show on a specially constructed stage on Sparrow Hills (which overlooks the city center and the State University), the Russian Orthodox Church accused Madonna of exploiting Christian symbols for her own ends and called for a boycott of her first-ever concert in Moscow.

“The U.S. singer Madonna exploits Christian symbols – the cross, rosary beads and the crucifix – and tries to equate human passions, including her own personal passions, with something sacred.

“I don’t think that Orthodox believers should support this lady by going to her concert,” Church spokesman Father Vsevolod Chaplin told Echo Of Moscow radio.

In May, the Catholic League in the United States expressed its discontent for the crucifixion stunt after Madonna performed it at the tour’s opening concert in Inglewood, Calif.

The singer reportedly defended the imagery by saying it forms part of an appeal to her audience to donate to Aids charities.

It’s not the first time 47-year-old Madonna, who’s currently topping Pollstar‘s 2006 Top 100 Tours chart with average sales of 30,000 per night, has come up with what certain religious factions regard as controversial content.

Her 1989 “Like a Prayer” video, which featured a black Christ-like figure and burning crosses, and a 1993 tour – when she simulated masturbation on stage – both provoked similar reactions.

– John Gammon