May 22, 2006 08:00 AM

Madonna has once again ticked off religious leaders.

During her Sunday concert in Los Angeles, which launched her first world tour in two years, Madonna sang “Live to Tell” while hanging from a giant mirrored cross as video screens showed images of third-world poverty.

“Knock off the Christ-bashing,” Catholic League president Bill Donohue said in a statement Monday. “It’s just pathetic.”

He continued, “I guess you really can’t teach an old pop star new tricks. Poor Madonna keeps trying to shock. But all she succeeds in doing is coming across as a boring bigot.”

According to the BBC, the Church of England said in a statement, “Why would someone with so much talent seem to feel the need to promote herself by offending so many people?”

David Muir of the Evangelical Alliance also accused Madonna of “blatant insensitivity.” He said, “Madonna’s use of Christian imagery is an abuse and it is dangerous,” and called for her to “drop it from the tour.”

Madonna’s camp has so far not commented.

Madonna, 47, has rankled religious leaders in the past: The Pope demanded a boycott of her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour, in which she simulated masturbation during one song, and the Vatican condemned her “Like A Prayer” video for featuring burning crosses and a black Jesus.

On Sunday, the enthusiastic crowd at the Los Angeles Forum included Salma Hayek, Nicole Richie, Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna’s Kabbalah guru, Rabbi Yehuda Berg.

During the two-hour concert – which began 50 minutes late – Madonna made her entrance lowered from the ceiling in a giant disco ball. Outfitted in dominatrix-like riding gear, she sang her new song “Future Lovers” accompanied by shirtless male dancers with ball gags in their mouths.

She performed songs from her new album, Confessions on a Dancefloor, as well as such old hits as “Like a Virgin,” “Ray of Light” and “Lucky Star,” Reuters reports.

During one song, a video montage mixed images of President Bush and Tony Blair with footage of Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden. Midway through the new song “I Love New York,” Madonna cracked a joke about Bush and oral sex.

The “Confessions” tour will continue for two months in North America, then resume on July 30 in Wales for a five-week stadium swing through eight European cities. Shows in Japan are also scheduled for mid-September.

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