World Cup Jerseys on 'Christ the Redeemer' Statue Upset Brazil's Catholic Church

( [email protected] ) Jun 13, 2014 03:07 PM EDT
The Brazilian Catholic Church is outraged after an Italian broadcasting company digitally placed "blasphemous" soccer jerseys on the nation's iconic "Christ the Redeemer" statue. Although the commercial has since been removed, the church plans to sue the company for $5.4 million.
Brazil's Catholic church is reportedly furious over a ''blasphemous'' commercial run by the Italian state television channel, Rai Italia, which features Rio's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue sporting a jersey for Italia. (Photo: Telegraph)

The Brazilian Catholic Church has threatened to sue Rai, an Italian broadcasting company, after it digitally put Rio de Janeiro's famous "Christ the Redeemer" statue in a soccer jersey to promote its coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

 A church lawyer for the Archdiocese of Rio called the move "blasphemous," the Huffington Post reports.

"The Archdiocese is deeply offended," Rodrigo Grazioli told O Globo, "exploiting the image of Christ the Redeemer is a crime."

The church may sue Rai for $5.4 million, and if they win, the money will be donated to a charitable organization.

The controversial commercial, which has since been removed, begins with music from an Italian opera, as children wearing Italy's blue "Azzurri" T-shirts play soccer in the streets. It then pans to a digitally altered image of the iconic statue wearing a No. 10 "Italia" jersey, along with the caption "Brazil Awaits Us."

Edio Costantini, president of the Vatican's soccer organization, said, "We live in a world that has put God on the bench."

"At a time when religious values seem to have become insignificant and everything is commercial, it's right to feel indignation, even with an act of force," he told Il Fatto.

This is not the only time sacred images have been used for commercial purposes during 2014's World Cup event.

Yesterday, a 15 foot floating "Jesus" wearing an Australian soccer jersey donning the Sportsbet logo with the slogan #KEEPTHEFAITH was released in the Melbourne, Australia sky.

Sportsbet, an Australian online gambling website, said its inflatable replica of Brazil's famous landmark will give a dose of intervention for the Australia national association football team this week.

However, Rev Costello, the chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, told Yahoo! Australia that the stunt was an overreach and against the principles Jesus stood.

"One of the great statues in Rio is Jesus, and Brazil is a Catholic nation that takes its faith seriously and its football fanatically," Costello said.

"You don't exploit those things that are sacred to people simply for your own advertising reach and I think that soccer as a world game should be sensitive to that and certainly express their disdain for these types of advertisements."

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the misuse of religious imagery, Christian leaders and organizations around the world are hopeful the 2014 World Cup will create an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence between the many nations represented.

 "The World Cup in Brazil is an opportunity for peoples from around the world to get together, acknowledging our differences and at the same time celebrating the multiplicity of God's creation," wrote the World Evangelical Alliance.  "It is the hope and prayer of all us that this World Cup be marked by joy, peace and goodwill as we all enjoy the beautiful dance that is football in this beautiful country, which has gifted the world with some of its best dancers."