'Blasphemous' Philippine art riles Catholics

Jay Directo
AFP News

An art exhibit featuring a Jesus Christ poster with a wooden penis glued to His face has sparked protests in the mainly Catholic Philippines.

Bishops and lay groups have demanded the state-run Cultural Centre of the Philippines close the exhibit on grounds it is blasphemous, immoral, illegal and offends the country's Catholic majority.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said on its website that Christian lay groups were also preparing a lawsuit.

"Those responsible for the public exhibit... have a liability because they offended the religious beliefs of a country that is 85 percent Christian," the website quoted well-known Catholic activist Jo Imbong as saying.

She said the cultural centre could be charged with violating a law on "immoral exhibitions" that normally applies to pornography.

The artwork, a collage by local artist Mideo Cruz, is part of an exhibit showcasing works by alumni from a church-run university aiming to challenge people's perceptions of figures they idolise.

It also includes a cross made of discarded wood with a woodcarving of a penis attached, and an icon of Jesus that has a red clown nose and Mickey Mouse ears.

Cultural centre chairwoman Emily Abrera defended the work on Wednesday, saying it was part of the artist's duty to challenge prevailing beliefs.

"We see nothing wrong with it. It is part of our culture to question, to seek answers, to look behind the surface and try to dig out what our real values are," she said on ABS-CBN television.