An art gallery in Rome has covered up an exhibition of photographs showing same-sex couples kissing in churches, reportedly following a legal threat by the Vatican, according to The Local, which bills itself as the largest English-language news network in Europe.
The photography series by Gonzalo Orquín was scheduled to open at the Galleria L’Opera last Wednesday evening and to run until November 15. The photographer said the gallery had received a legal notice from the Vatican, and that he and the gallery had decided to cover up the photographs.
His works were to be presented with two other artists, and all three were invited by journalist and art critic Edoardo Sassi to "realise three works on decidedly anti-conventional themes and, above all, to treat them in a non-conventional fashion: Suore, Matrimoni, Interni (Nuns, Weddings, Interiors)..."
Artist Gonzalo Orquín with his exhibit. Photo: repubblica.it
Click here to view the series.
Orquin posted photo with the covered up images
and a caption protesting the censorship on his Facebook page.
“A letter arrived from the Vicariate of Rome, an organisation that is part of the Vatican, which said the church is against the exhibition. I spoke to lawyers and for security reasons we decided not to show the photos,” Orquín told The Local.
A spokesman for the Vicariate Cladio Tanturri said the photographs went against the Italian constitution.
“Italian constitutional law safeguards an individual’s religious feeling and the function of places of worship. Therefore photos that are not suitable and do not conform to the spirituality of the place offend and infringe upon the advancement of man in the particular place for the expression of faith.”
Click here to view the series.
All but one of the 16 photographs were taken in churches in Rome, with gay and straight volunteers posing for Orquín.
“We went to churches, took the photos at the altar and ran off... it’s a bit like a flash mob,” The Local quoted Orquín, who is Catholic, as saying. “A number of times we left because there were a people praying. It wasn’t easy.”
Orquín, who is Spanish but has lived in Rome for eight years, said lawyers are currently working on the case and for the moment the photos will continue to be covered up.
He said he found Italy to be “a very homophobic county”.
“There aren’t other countries in Europe or the West that are backward like this,” he said.
Flavio Romani, the president of gay rights group Arcigay had stronger words, calling the Vatican's reaction "grotesque."
"In the images in which the church have seen provocation, I see an exchange of love, a type of public worship that creates harmony not contrast," he said. "The indignation of the Catholic Church, therefore, is extremely grotesque."
Pope Francis had recently said in an interview with America, a Catholic magazine, that the Church needed to get away from focusing solely on issues like abortion, contraception and gay marriage. Specifically referring to gay people, the Pope commented that "it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person."