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Vasile Banescu, a spokesman for the Romanian Patriarchate, denounced billboards depicting doctors and nurses as “saints” with coronavirus-shaped halos as a blasphemous “visual mistreatment of Christian iconography” on Wednesday.
The posters, created by Romanian artist Wanda Hutira for the McCann Worldgroup ad agency’s “Thank you doctors” campaign and posted throughout Bucharest, have also offended the Medical Guild, Banescu said, reports the Romanian Church’s Basilica News Agency.
The scandalous images combine eclectic elements of Indian religious art and Orthodox iconography. In one image, a character wearing a robe, goggles, stethoscope, and mask, blesses with his right hand, as does Christ in Orthodox iconography, while holding a medical chart in his left. In another, a nurse is depicted with several hands, as in images of the god Shiva, the creator and destroy of the universe in Hindu mythology.
All the characters have halos in the shape of the coronavirus.
Banescu responded strongly: “I think this is a ridiculous campaign to promote a dystopian vision of the situation caused by the pandemic; an embarrassing attempt at symbolic theft and visual mistreatment of Christian iconography, marked by bad taste fed by ignorance and a hideous ideology that only knows how to caricature Christianity.”
The images are an affront to the hard-working doctors and nurses themselves, Banescu believes: “It is not just a blasphemous act but also an insult to the very honorable profession of doctors who, like all of us, do not think they are saints or improvised saviors and do not demand a public cult.”
Bucharest city hall said it would ask the advertising firm to remove the billboards, “which could be replaced with images that bring homage to hero doctors without offending the faith of passersby,” reports Reuters.
“[They’re] a daring artistic choice but one which is in no way following a political, religious or any other kind of purpose,” McCann Romania said in a statement.