May 27, 2008 / 3:09 PM / 9 years ago

Church calls zombie parade blasphemous

MADRID (Reuters) - A procession of devils, ghosts and zombies through the historic Spanish city of Toledo has been branded blasphemous by the Catholic Church.

Actors from the Morboria theatre company performed a representation inspired by the medieval Dance of Death in Toledo's streets on Saturday, provoking an angry reaction from the cathedral pulpit the following day.

"We ask forgiveness for those who yesterday insulted the body of Christ," said Archbishop Antonio Canizares, quoted in newspaper El Pais.

He told worshippers the procession, which also included a Virgin Mary and a Saint Peter, made a mockery of the Catholic celebration of Corpus Christi.

"This feast and all it means are much bigger than this belittling and rolling about on the streets," Canizares said.

A representative of Morboria said the actors had been well received by most passers by except for one small group who told them off and said they would pray for them.

"We were hired by the town hall," said Morboria's Eva de Palacio.

Long one of Europe's most traditionalist countries, Spanish society has become one of its most socially liberal since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. The Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has angered the Church by legalizing gay marriage, making divorce easier, and reducing the Catholic influence over education.

Toledo retains a reputation as one of the most conservative towns in Spain. It was once home to a permanent office of the Spanish Inquisition, which had more painful methods of dealing with blasphemy than those available to Canizares.

Reporting by Jason Webb; Editing by Matthew Jones

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