In its October edition, the magazine Placar printed a photo spread featuring Brazilian soccer star Neymar's face photo-shopped over the famous painting of Christ crucified by Velasquez.
The caption under the photo refers to Neymar as a “sacrificial lamb” in a sport in which “everyone plays dirty.”
In response, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil issued a statement expressing “profound indignation” over the photo. The secretary general of the bishops' conference, Bishop Leonardo Steiner, read the statement to reporters.
“We recognize freedom of expression as a fundamental principal of the state and democratic society, as long as there are objective limits in its exercise,” the bishops said.
“The ridicule of the faith and the disdain for the religious sentiments of the people through the disrespectful use of the image of Jesus Christ suggests the manipulation and exploitation of an editorial resource for mere commercial gain,” they added.
Those responsible for the publication of the photo “have at the very least shown themselves to be insensitive to the recent worldwide scene of deplorable violence caused by the inappropriate use of religious images, thus attacking the consolidation of respectful coexistence between groups of different beliefs,” the bishops noted.
They called the picture “a clear lack of respect that is offensive to what Christians consider to be most sacred, and it is another dangerous display of the famous device of using provocation to gain attention.”
The bishops of Brazil have rapped a Brazilian sports magazine for printing photos of famous soccer star Neymar, in which he appears crucified.
Church in Brazil, Offensive art