Artist's Madonna with baby Hitler work plays with fire, states Italian bishop

The Madonna of the Third Reich by Giuseppe Veneziano
The Madonna of the Third Reich by Giuseppe Veneziano


Bishop Domenico Mogavero is wondering just what was meant to be accomplished through a work of art that makes a joke of Nazism. Poking fun at an ideology that "trampled man," he said, is a "risky operation."

A painting by Sicilian artist Giuseppe Veneziano has again drawn the attention of Church officials and the media in Italy. "The Madonna of the Third Reich," which depicts the Virgin Mary with a child Hitler in her arms, has before been met with disgust but is now on display again in the city of Solemi, Italy.

Italian Bishop of Mazara del Vallo, Domenico Mogavero, told SIR news that the work has been the subject of controversy for some time, but that he himself is not "upset, nor worried by the punches to the stomach dealt by single artists and those who hold them in esteem.

"But," he added, "I ask myself … what is the message they intend to communicate?"

He said that with the work, Veneziano commits a "very serious wrong" against victims of Nazism, an "ideology that trampled man, his dignity" and his values.

Explaining that he was not asking for censorship of the work in defense of values, the bishop did say that "making such an idea pass for a joke is a risky operation, because ... you don't play with fire."

When the work was presented at an exhibition in Verona, Italy a year ago, it was met by similar comments from diocesan spokesman, Fr. Bruno Fasani. The priest said that such art was disrespectful and when one witnesses such a piece, instead of seeing the genius of the artist, he sees only a "banal profiteer of provocation."

As Bishop Mogavero, neither did Fr. Fasani ask for the removal of the work, proposing rather that "it remain in its post because those who count more on scandal than their own artistic qualities deserve only one payment: disinterest and silence."

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