ROME – Religious leaders may have snubbed Madonna, but Italian fans cheered the pop star as she staged a mock crucifixion at her concert in Rome.
A crowd of 70,000 attended Sunday night's performance at Olympic Stadium, some two miles from the Vatican.
The scene of Madonna on a mirrored cross and wearing a crown of thorns, part of her worldwide "Confessions" tour, had drawn fire from religious leaders, who condemned it as an act of hostility toward the Roman Catholic Church.
"She does it to play, not to offend," said Benedetta Mori, a 31-year-old fan wearing a T-shirt with an image of Madonna on the cross. "If they allowed her to stage the show here they must also play by her rules."
Madonna's representatives have said the performance on the cross, which has been included from the outset of the tour in May, is not disrespectful toward the church.
The 47-year-old singer is known for her theatrical, action-packed shows. Besides her rendition of "Live to Tell" while on the cross, her two-hour performance included two dancers with a Star of David and a Muslim crescent painted on their torsos who embraced and held hands.
A figure wearing a robe and turban did a solo on the shofar, a ram's horn traditionally blown during the Jewish high holidays, then joined Madonna, who is a kabbalist, to perform "Isaac," a song about Yitzhak Luria, a 16th-century Jewish mystic and kabbalah scholar.
"Two miracles have happened," Madonna told the crowd. "Italy won the World Cup and it stopped raining before my show."
Keeping in touch with her Material Girl side, she got the crowd moving with her gyrating dancing and disco-flavored numbers.
"Ciao Roma! Are you ready to ride with me?" said the equestrian-styled singer as she opened a concert that included "Hung Up," "Music," "Like a Virgin" and "La Isla Bonita."