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Protests planned against Christ image use in Italian play

„No theatre“  ir Vido Bareikio protestas prieš vieną iš svarbiausių teatro festivalio „Sirenos“ svečių
Juliaus Kalinsko / 15min nuotr. / .
Šaltinis: BNS

Dozens of young people plan to hold protests in Vilnius in order to express their dissatisfaction with plans to show a play by an Italian director, which, in their opinion, shows disrespect for the image of Christ, at a publicly funded festival. Lithuanian parliament, meanwhile, fails to adopt a resolution urging people to boycott the play.

Protests will be held outside the Lithuanian National Drama Theater, the Ministry of Culture, and Vilnius City Municipality on Thursday, according to organizers.

"Disrespect for the image of Christ is unacceptable for us," Santa Kančyte, 22, one of the organizers, told BNS.

In her words, protests against Romeo Castellucci's "On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God" will be attended by up to nine people, as such a number of protesters doesn't need a municipal permission.

"I am a lawyer myself but different people will attend, mainly like-minded people of student-age. We want to express disapproval of the fact that the play is funded by the state. The play is hurting part of our society," Kančyte said.

The controversial play is scheduled to be shown at the theater festival Sirens. The plans even sparked discussions in the Lithuanian parliament on Tuesday. MPs even started looking into calls to ban the play.

Conservative Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said on Wednesday he respected creative freedom but he also called on the festival organizers "to consider with all responsibility concerns expressed by the public."

Renaissance painter Antonello da Messina's painting Salvator Mundi is used during the play which tells about the relations of a son taking care of his father who keeps producing excrement.

Posters for the play came under criticism of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. Vilnius Archbishop Cardinal Audrys Juozas Bačkis issued a letter, calling on believers to oppose the desecration of God's portrait and other religious signs.

The position was later echoed by the Lithuanian Orthodox Church. It said "nobody can stay away and be indifferent to this blasphemy and desecration of universal cultural and religious values."

Lithuanian Minister of Culture Arūnas Gelūnas told BNS earlier this week that public criticism and calls for boycott were understandable but, he underlined, violence and bans are more characteristic of non-democratic regimes.

Meanwhile Castellucci, 52, said in an interview with the Lietuvos Rytas daily on Wednesday that "controversial reaction proves that our play is good."

Failure to adopt resolution

The Lithuanian parliament failed to adopt a resolution calling on the public to boycott the play.

The parliament started looking into a draft resolution on Wednesday but the Social Democratic Party's political group asked for a break until the next parliamentary sitting, scheduled for 16 October, more than a week after the performance.

Romeo Castellucci's "On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God" will be shown at the National Drama Theater on 6-7 October.

The draft resolution was aimed at calling on the public to boycott the play which is considered insulting for Christians, divisive, and inciting religious hatred. The document states that "Renaissance painter Antonello da Messina's painting Salvator Mundi will be subjected to sneering during the play and symbols of belief and the image of the Holy Father, so dear to Christians, will be desecrated."

The Seimas believes that "public sneering of religious values of traditional religious communities, including Christians, Muslims, Jewish, etc., is incompatible with human dignity and morale" therefore the above-mentioned play should not be funded by tax payers.

"The minister of culture, the head of the National Drama Theater, and organizers of the festival Sirens, who have so far failed to take any action for the play not to be shown, should accept all legal and moral responsibility," the draft resolution says.

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