Blasphemous Theater Play at Teatro Franco Parenti, Milan

Country: Italy

Date of incident: January 24, 2012

Christian groups protested against the performance of a blasphemous theater play by Romeo Castellucci called “On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God”. The director of the Vatican press office, P. Federico Lombardi, and Italian sociologist Massimo Introvigne drew attention to the case and called to strong but calm and prayerful reaction of the Christian community.

The piece “On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God” is described as hurtful to Christians and as insulting by the content and images. A large image of face of Jesus fills stage and is later smeared with feces. The play depicts a man caring for his father who suffers from dementia and incontinence and deals with the question as to why God allows suffering. Later the image of Jesus is pelted stones. The play was performed in France in September 2011, where it triggered strong Catholic protests and public prayer. The Italian newspaper, "Corriere della Sera", reported the plan that national security and anti-terrorist forces would be called in case of protests at the Teatro Franco Parenti.  The director of the Vatican press office, P. Federico Lombardi, gave a statement on the matter, explaining a previous letter from the Secretary of State. Fr. Lombardi said: “Noting the fact that it is a work that is offensive to the religious beliefs of Christians, the letter broadens the discourse and ‘hopes that any lack of respect’ of this nature will meet with ‘the strong and composed reaction of the Christian community.’” He asked “that the sensibilities of so many citizens of Milan who see in the Face of Christ the incarnation of God, the fullness of humanity, and the reason for their existence, be acknowledged and respected.” He concluded by saying that “prayer to manifest dissent cannot be accompanied by excesses of any kind, even if only verbal.” Italian sociologist Massimo Introvigne, former responsible for intolerance against Christians at the OSCE explained that although Castellucci claims that the play is not anti-Christian, one could only regard the final scene as objectively disrespectful of christianity. Introvigne recommended not to join the protests near to the theatre since it was easy to foresee that the media will only pay attention to the marginal or violent groups. He instead encouraged the organization of reparation Masses, just as Cardinal Scola of Milan suggested as a preferred alternative to street protest.