USA    CATHOLICS ASKED TO CONDEMN VIRGIN MANY DUNG PAINTING
New York's Cardinal John O'Connor on Saturday asked Catholics to join him in condemning a painting of the Virgin Mary embellished with a clump of elephant dung.
    Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, meanwhile, reiterated his pledge to cut all $7 million of city funding to the museum - one-third of its budget - unless the painting is pulled from an exhibit scheduled to open Friday.
    "I'm saddened by what appears 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," said O'Connor in his weekly sermon at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
    He said he was grateful to city officials for their action, adding: "It is their right, if not their duty, to express themselves on such matters."
    But New York Civil Liberties Union director Norman Siegel said the mayor's threats to cut the funding "violates the First Amendment".
    The painting, "The Holy Virgin Mary," depicts Mary with dark skin, African features and flowing robes. It features a shellacked clump of elephant dung and two dozen cutouts of buttocks from pornographic magazines.
    The artist, Chris Ofili, 30, a black Catholic who was born in England and lives there, has said he used the pornographic images because classical images of Mary are often sexually charged.
    He also told Salon magazine in February: "Elephant dung in itself is quite a beautiful object." [LINK]
   
    AP 1:09pm 27/9/99

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