Facebook apologizes for blocking Catholic university’s ad of Jesus on the cross

Facebook apologized after it rejected an ad by a Catholic university in Ohio on Good Friday that showed Jesus hanging on the cross.

The social media giant labeled the religious image “shocking and excessively violent,” according to a university spokesman.

Franciscan University of Steubenville published 10 Facebook advertisements for its master’s degree program in theology, catechetics, and evangelization. Tom Crowe, Steubenville’s web communications director, told Fox News he doesn’t know why only the one clearly depicting the San Damiano Cross was rejected.

“It may have been the algorithm or a low level staffer who has something against Christianity,” Crowe said. “For whatever reason, Facebook rejected the cross.”

Facebook apologized Wednesday for the mistake.

"Our team processes millions of ads each week, and sometimes we make mistakes,” a Facebook spokesperson told Fox News. “This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have already let the advertiser know we approved their ad."

Facebook said the ad was officially approved on Monday.

"Facebook approved other ads with the exact same image, which again leads me to believe it wasn’t an algorithm, but was a low-level staffer who skims many, many ads and just had something personal against this one," Crowe said. "I’ll reiterate that I’m not claiming systemic religious bigotry at Facebook, but in this case it seems something like that happened in a one-off situation."

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Facebook apologized for rejecting an ad on Good Friday from a Catholic university depicting Jesus on a cross.  (Franciscan University of Steubenville)

Crowe called the rejection a “teachable moment” and a reminder for all. He wrote in a piece published on the university’s website titled “He was rejected,” that this is how humanity reacts to the idea of God humbling himself to death on a cross.

“This is sensational, this is shocking,” he wrote. “This is only possible because of the excessive violence that he endured for us.”

Although now approved, Crowe said he hopes people do take something away from it.

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“I hope people take another look at the cross and see what God did for us,” he said. “Whether it’s a return to faith or an investigation of this weird thing called Christianity.”

Crowe told Fox News the San Damiano cross is very significant to the Franciscan order, as it is believed God spoke to St. Francis through this cross, which is prominently displayed all over the Steubenville campus.

He said the cross is iconographic, meaning it’s supposed to tell a story.

Unlike other depictions of the cross, the San Damiano cross doesn’t show Christ in agony, because they believe Christ crucified is the sign of his glory and reign. While Jesus most likely would’ve been naked, it’s believed the garment he’s wearing is what most Jewish priests would wear when they offered sacrifices in the Temple, symbolizing Christ as the high priest, the sacrifice of the Father, and the fulfilment of the old covenant.

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It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus on the cross, Crowe said, but rather his love for mankind.

“He could have descended from the cross at any moment,” he wrote. “No, it was love that kept him there. Love for you and for me, that we might not be eternally condemned for our sins but might have life eternal with him and his Father in heaven.”

Caleb Parke is an associate editor for FoxNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter @calebparke