THE CARDINAL Of New York has criticised an exhibition containing a work of art featuring the Virgin Mary surrounded by images from pornographic magazines and elephant dung.
Cardinal John O'Connor said the work showed "profound irreverence for our Blessed Mother" during a homily at New York's St Patrick's Cathedral.
"I am saddened," he said, "at what appears to me to be an attack not only on our Blessed Mother, but. one must ask if it is not an attack on religion itself and in a special way on the Catholic Church."
The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, also condemned the work, created by the award-winning British artist Chris Ofili. It said that the exhibit, showing at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, was a "squalid icon" of "bourgeois decadence".
Chris Ofili said the work was "simply a hip-hop version" of the "sexually charged" paintings of Mary that he had known as a child.
Rudolph Giuliani, mayor of New York and a Catholic, threatened to stop city subsidies to the museum if it went ahead with the exhibition, as the organisers promise..
"You don't have a right to government funding for desecrating somebody else's religion," he said.