Stephen M. Silverman and KC Baker
March 29, 2005 09:00 AM

Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie have sparked cries of outrage after being seen in public dressed up as a nun and the Pope at a kabbalah party in London Thursday night to celebrate the Jewish festival of Purim.

Catholic League president William Donahue denounced the outfits, especially Ritchie’s, telling PEOPLE: “This has crossed the line from bad taste to obscenity. It’s one thing for silly adults to get dressed up as nuns and priests for Halloween. It’s quite another to choose this kind of dress at a time when the Pope’s health is failing.”

The pontiff has been suffering severe ill health of late, forcing him to curtail his usual Holy Week activities last week.

Madonna’s publicist, Liz Rosenberg, tells PEOPLE that the pop star and her husband didn’t intend to offend anyone. “They meant no disrespect at all,” says Rosenberg, “not in the slightest.”

In fact, Rosenberg says that Madonna had a great time at the Purim celebration and is taking the costume hubbub in stride: “She said jokingly, ‘I was hoping the paparazzi would take some pictures of us. I know if my father sees the picture, he could finally be proud of me.’ She was laughing about it. ”

Purim marks the day Queen Esther saved the Jewish people in ancient Persia from annihilation.

Donahue, however, says he doesn’t see the humor in the situation: “The next time, she and her husband should dress up as Muslims and explain it to the Muslims that they never intended to offend them.”

As for where Ritchie got his papal duds, Rosenberg says: “They must have rented them. I’m sure he doesn’t have a Pope costume in his closet.”

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