The BBC has abandoned plans to screen a ballet featuring a deformed Pope who rapes nuns that it had announced as one of the highlights of its Christmas schedule.

Last month the corporation said it would televise "In The Spirit Of Diaghilev" from London's Sadler's Wells Dance Theatre as part of a season of ballet programs.

The tribute to the Russian impresario comprises four acts, each by a groundbreaking choreographer, with the entire production due to be screened on BBC Four next month.

But it wasn't until the production premiered at Sadler's Wells that the BBC discovered that one of the acts, "Eternal Damnation To Sancho And Sanchez" by Javier de Frutos, centers on a group of "horny" priests and a fictional hunchback Pope, who rapes eunuchs and pregnant nuns. The act prompted boos from the Sadler's Wells audience and a number of walk-outs.

After extensive discussions within the BBC, the corporation has decided to drop the de Frutos section. The three other acts will air as planned during the broadcast on Dec. 18.

The BBC is keen to avoid another "blasphemy" row with Christian groups who complained bitterly over its decision to screen "Jerry Springer: The Opera." Watchdogs rejected those complaints and said the BBC decision was justified.

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