Madonna staged a mock-crucifixion in the Italian capital on Sunday, ignoring a storm of protest and accusations of blasphemy from the Roman Catholic Church.
In a sold-out stadium just a mile from Vatican City, the lapsed-Catholic diva wore a fake crown of thorns as she was raised on a glittery cross during the Rome stop of her worldwide “Confessions Tour.”
The Vatican had accused her of blasphemy and provocation for even considering staging the sham crucifixion on its doorstep, anger Madonna further enflamed prior to the show by inviting Pope Benedict to come and watch.
The self-styled “Queen of Pop” went on to pepper her two-and-a-half hour show with more controversial imagery, at one point showing photographs of the pope after those of former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
“Did you know two miracles have taken place in Rome?” the star, dressed in skin-skimming black, later joked with the crowd. “Italy won the World Cup and the rain stopped before my show.”
The 70,000 fans, crammed into the Olympic Stadium, shrugged off the scandal by dancing, singing and jumping as she performed songs from her latest album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, and classics such as “Like a Virgin.”
Yet the cheering lulled when she was raised on the cross and some fans from predominantly Roman Catholic Italy confessed their disappointment.
“The crucifixion was unnecessary and provocative. Because this is Rome, I wish she’d cut it out. But it’s Madonna, she’s an icon, and that balances out her need to provoke,” said 39-year old Roman Tonia Valerio.
It is not the first time Madonna, whose father is a Catholic Italian American, has caused religious anger for her controversial religious and sexual imagery.
Catholic leaders condemned as blasphemous her 1989 video for the hit song “Like a Prayer,” featuring burning crosses, statues crying blood and Madonna seducing a black Jesus.
In 2004, a Vatican group warned that her latest religious belief, Kabbalah, a mystical from of Judaism, was a potential threat to the Roman Catholic faithful.
And she looks likely to face another storm when the tour reaches Moscow in September, where the Russian Orthodox Church has advised its followers to boycott the show because of the crucifixion stunt, agency Interfax reported on Saturday.