Thursday, July 10, 2008

Anti-Pope fashion parade held ahead of Australian visit

Australians protesting against Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Sydney took a creative turn on Wednesday, staging an "annoying" fashion show of T-shirts displaying anti-Catholic slogans.

The show, a response to new laws against causing "annoyance" to pilgrims attending Catholic World Youth day next week, came just a day after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called on all Australians to show the Pope respect.

"They are not from Milan," acknowledged Rachel Evans, spokeswoman of the NoToPope group, as T-shirts featuring slogans such as "The Pope is wrong, put a condom on" were displayed outside the New South Wales state parliament.

Other shirts, which are selling for 20 dollars (19 US), read "Pope go homo", "There is no God" and "Does the history of your church annoy you?"

Among the most graphic was one featuring Benedict XVI standing with arms outstretched but with pointed, red devil ears and a tail superimposed on the image under the slogan "Chief homophobe".

NoToPope, a coalition including Christians, atheists and gay groups, was protesting at new regulations giving police power to stop conduct that "causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants" in World Youth Day.

Failure to comply with the laws can attract a penalty of up to 5,500 dollars, prompting one designer last week to come up with a T-shirt reading "$5,500, a small price to pay for annoying Catholics."

Evans slammed the laws, which will be in force for the duration of the July 15-20 World Youth Day and may threaten a NoToPope rally planned for July 19, during which members plan to hand out condoms to pilgrims.

"This again is an attempt to intimidate people to not come to our rally and say their piece against the Pope," she told reporters.

World Youth Day is a global celebration of the Catholic faith aimed at young people and is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of local and foreign pilgrims.


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