BERLIN Germany's churches criticized a businessman on Tuesday for selling thousands of Jesus chocolates.
Frank Oynhausen set up his "Sweet Lord" chocolate Jesus-making business saying he wanted to restore some traditional religious values to Christmas in Germany.
But the German Protestant Church criticized the idea as "tasteless" and the Roman Catholic Church was not amused.
"I started thinking about how I could reintroduce traditional religious values into this commercial world," said Oynhausen, who had been unemployed since losing a recycling business two years ago.
Together with a friend, a local chocolatier, Oynhausen, 54, developed the concept of "Sweet Lord." It is growing fast in his home town of Duisburg and on the internet (www.goldjesus.com).
Oynhausen said thousands of people have put in orders for the figures wrapped in gold foil.
But church associations expressed dismay.
"It is terrible that Jesus is being wrapped up in gold foil and sold along with chocolate bunnies, edible penguins and lollipops," said Aegidius Engel, a spokesman for the archbishopric of nearby Paderborn.
"This is ruining the symbol of Jesus himself," he added.
Oynhausen is now custom-producing the chocolate Jesus figures, but by Easter he hopes to have a partnership with a mass producer.
"We're hoping to be able to export them around the world one day," Oynhausen said. He reckons there are parts of the United States where they will be especially popular.
In 2007, a life-size chocolate sculpture of a naked Jesus caused an outcry from Roman Catholics when an art gallery in New York wanted to exhibit it in a window.