SANTIAGO A prominent fashion designer has sparked outrage in Chile by dressing up models like the Virgin Mary -- in some cases with ample, near-naked breasts.
The Roman Catholic Church condemned Ricardo Oyarzun's plans for a show featuring the models, and a conservative group tried unsuccessfully to block it in court.
Oyarzun said he had received telephone threats and had excrement smeared on his doorstep.
"There is no pornography here, there's no sex, there are no virgins menstruating or feeling each other up," Oyarzun said ahead of the catwalk show set to be held at a Santiago nightclub later on Thursday. "This is artistic expression."
He said his designs -- which include halos, look as though they come from a nativity scene and include religious icons -- were inspired by the Virgin Mary but not intended to represent her.
"We look on with special pain and deplore those acts which seek to tarnish manifestations of sincere love toward the Virgin Mary, which end up striking at the dignity of womankind by presenting her as an object of consumption," Chile's Episcopal Conference, which includes Catholic bishops, said in a statement.
The show is more evidence that Chile, heavily influenced by the church for decades, is shaking off its reputation as one of the most socially conservative countries in Latin America.
(Reporting by Monica Vargas; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Xavier Briand)