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Madonna sprawled on church

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Milan (Reuters): Is it appropriate for one of the Roman Catholic church's best known cathedrals to be draped with the giant picture of a pop artist who has made millions from hit songs about sex? Yes, according to the most senior priest at Milan's landmark Duomo who has rebuffed requests to remove a picture of Madonna as part of an advertisement for Swedish fashion chain Hennes&Maritz.

It's not the contents of the picture on the cathedral that has upset the critics. The ad shows the woman behind such hits about unmarried sex as ''Like a Virgin'' and ''Papa Don't Preach'' in a white sports jacket zipped to the top, eyes downcast. But the appearance of the banner on scaffolding erected on the Duomo coincided with protests over a Madonna show near the Vatican during which the ''Queen of Pop'' had herself hoisted on a glittery cross wearing a crown of thorns in a mock crucifixion. ''It's diabolical,'' said Albertina Santos, 53, the wife of an evangelical pastor from Verona, Italy. ''This doesn't look right, it's not the right thing for a Christian.'' However, the Duomo's Monsignor Luigi Manganini told Italy's Ansa news agency that the ad - part of money-raising efforts to restore the cathedral -can stay and is appropriate.

''It's just an ad, certainly not a canonisation,'' Manganini said. ''When it was accepted, the poster seemed all correct and appropriate for its place, and it still is.'' Critics such as the national Catholic schoolparents' association and the head of Milan's Advertising Progress Foundation find it difficult to accept even a demure picture on a church from an artist whose 1992 book ''Sex'' depicted the star in various poses and states of undress. Peering up at the ad, Spanish tourist Manuel Moreno, 60, said: ''She's an artist who does things that are almost pornographic. I don't like that it's on a cathedral.'' The head of culture for Milan's city council said a picture of the women whose latest ''Confessions on a Dance Floor'' album sports a picture of her in bright mauve hot pants may even be in keeping with the Duomo's original 14th-15th century decor. ''The other parts of the building are full of devils and demons. So an infernal Madonna shouldn't hurt us too badly,'' Vittorio Sgarbi told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

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