The Pontifical Academy for Life has made a powerful anti-racism statement with a ‘Black Lives Matter’ Pietà.
– “An image that is worth a speech”
The Academy – a body established by Pope John Paul II in 1994 and which has as its mission “the defence and promotion of the value of human life and of the dignity of the person” – published on its Twitter account September 12 a version of the famous Michelangelo Pietà sculpture in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Accompanying the image posted by the Academy – which features a crucified Black Jesus lying in the lap of his mother Mary – was the caption “An image that is worth a speech”.
– “The people mad about this image would crucify Christ themselves”
Criticisms of the Academy’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ image came thick and fast, with some Twitter users expressing their unhappiness with the alteration of Michelangelo’s famous 15th-century sculpture.
“What’s up with this? Where is our Jesus?”, asked one Twitter user, while another called it “outrageous… that the Vatican has altered the image of The Pieta to make a political point. Jesus wept”.
Despite the naysayers and accusations of “blasphemy”, however, there were numerous shows of support on Twitter for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ Pietà.
“This is good news for the poor, the captives, the oppressed, the hungry, the ragged refugee, the frightened child, the sick and disabled. It’s not talking about the landscape or topgraphy of God’s kingdom but the absence of human systems of domination”, wrote Twitter user John W. Baker.
“Unarmed innocent [Black] people are being murdered even in their sleep. I think Jesus expects us to stand up and say, No! Not in my name!”, Baker wrote in another comment, adding “Black men are being tried, convicted, and executed without trial on our streets. Their crime was living while Black. This does not happen to white people”.
“The people mad about this image would crucify Christ themselves”, observed for his part Twitter user (((Gump))).
– Is racism a “pro-life” issue? Pope says yes
As part of his mission of studying “the problems connected with the promotion and defence of human life” and forming people “in a culture of life”, the Pontifical Academy for Life promotes the “care for the dignity of the human person at different stages of life, mutual respect between the sexes and generations; the defence of the dignity of each individual human being; and the promotion of a quality of human life that integrates material and spiritual values”.
Whether or not opposing racism is a “pro-life” issue is a question that has been at the forefront of debates particularly in the US Church ever since the May 25 murder by white police of unarmed Black man George Floyd sparked a wave of anti-racism protests around the world that have only intensified in the wake of more white-on-Black violence since.
But Pope Francis himself put an end to the debate in his Wednesday General Audience June 3, when he declared – referring to the murder of Floyd – that “we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life”.
Update 17/9 11:30 CEST:
After the social media storm, the Pontifical Academy for Life took on the critics of the image, saying through spokesman Fabrizio Mastrofini that the modified photo “nothing to do” with the Black Lives Matter movement but instead was intended as a “360-degree message against racism”.
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