Benedict XVI has condemned a sculpture of a crucified frog on display at a Bolzano museum, a local politician revealed Wednesday.
Trentino-Alto Adige regional council president and anti-frog campaigner Franz Pahl said the pope had written to him about the frog, which has been at the centre of a heated row ever since it went on show at modern art museum Museion in May.
In a letter dated August 7, Benedict said the sculpture ''has injured the religious feeling of many people who see in the cross the symbol of the love of God and of our salvation which deserves recognition and religious devotion''.
The pope wrote to Pahl while on summer holiday in the nearby town of Bressanone, during which he and local bishop Wilhelm Egger discussed the controversial sculpture.
Egger, who died last week, said the work had ''shocked'' many visitors to the museum.
The metre-high work by late German artist Martin Kippenberger depicts a warty, pop-eyed green amphibian nailed to a cross with a frothing mug of beer in one hand and an egg in the other.
Critics say the work offends the sensibility of Alto Adige's 99% Christian population, while museum curators maintain that Kippenberger's work is a self-portrait of the artist ''in a state of profound crisis'' and is not an attack on religious feeling.
The row gained momentum at the end of July when former Senator and Catholic politician Renzo Gubert reported the work to police for public obscenity.
A day later Pahl was hospitalised on the eighth day of a hunger strike in a bid to get the sculpture removed.
While Museion curators have shifted the sculpture from the entrance of the museum to a more out-of-the-way position, they have so far refused to remove it.
On Tuesday members of the provincial government - who form the majority on Museion's board of directors - said they would ask for the sculpture to be taken down when they meet with museum officials on Thursday.
But Museion director Corinne Diserens said Wednesday that the frog would remain in place until the temporary exhibition is due to end on September 21.
Diserens also hit out at local politicians for trying to exploit the issue ahead of upcoming provincial elections in October.
The provincial government is responsible for funding Museion, where Diserens said 26,000 people have visited the sculpture since May.
This is the second time the Bolzano museum has been in trouble for displaying a controversial work.
In 2006 Museion officials found themselves in court over an installation by Roman artists goldiechiari (Eleonora Chiari and Sara Goldschmied) that involved a toilet flushing to the musical accompaniment of Italy's national anthem.
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