ROME – Madonna's plans to stage a mock crucifixion during a Sunday concert in Rome have drawn fire from religious leaders, who have condemned the stunt as "an act of open hostility" toward the Roman Catholic Church.
During the concerts of her "Confessions" world tour, the American diva appears crucified on a mirrored cross while wearing a crown of thorns.
The prospect of the scene being repeated at the concert in Rome's Olympic stadium, some 2 miles from the Vatican, prompted Catholic officials to denounce the act as a publicity stunt in bad taste.
"To crucify yourself in the city of the pope and the martyrs is an act of open hostility," Cardinal Ersilio Tonini was quoted as saying in La Stampa daily on Wednesday. "It's a scandal created on purpose by astute merchants to attract publicity."
Muslim and Jewish leaders also condemned the fake crucifixion.
"It's not the first time Madonna stages such an act. We deplore it, we feel it is an act of bad taste," said Mario Scialoja, the president of the Muslim World League in Italy.
"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 May, the Catholic League in the United States expressed its discontent for the stunt after Madonna performed it at the tour's opening concert in Inglewood, California.
"Knock off the Christ-bashing," Catholic League president Bill Donohue said in a statement. "It's just pathetic."
Still, tickets for the Rome concert were selling quickly, with only about 100 left by Thursday, news agency ANSA reported.
Following concerts throughout North America, the "Confessions" tour continues through Sept. 21 with dates in Europe and Japan.