Romanian Church condemns posters depicting doctors and nurses as saints

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s Orthodox Church said on Wednesday a series of outdoor posters depicting nurses and doctors on the frontlines of the new coronavirus outbreak as saints were blasphemous and an insult to Christian iconography.

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The city hall of capital Bucharest said it would ask advertising firms to remove the posters, part of a wider European campaign that depicts nurses and doctors in a style that mixes comic book elements with religious art.

The posters, created by Romanian illustrator Wanda Hutira and part of a “Thank you doctors” campaign by ad agency McCann Worldgroup, were generally well-received, but they also drew divisive comments on social media.

“It is a campaign to promote a dystopian vision over the situation induced by the pandemic,” the Church’s spokesman Vasile Banescu told Reuters. He said the posters were “a visual mistreatment of Christian iconography.”

“It is not just a blasphemous act but also an insult to the very honourable profession of doctors who, like all of us, do not think they are saints or improvised saviours and do not demand a public cult.”

Bucharest city hall said in a statement it would ask outdoor advertising firms to remove the posters “which could be replaced with images that bring homage to hero doctors without hurting the faith of passersby.”

The outdoor displays do not require city hall approval.

“(The posters) were a daring artistic choice but one which is in no way following a political, religious or any other kind of purpose,” McCann Romania said in a statement. “It is a gesture of gratitude for doctors.”

Romanians across the country have organised donation drives to provide hospitals with protective gear. Elsewhere in Europe, Italians and Britons have sung or applauded hard-pressed medical staff from windows and balconies.

Romania, which declared a state of emergency on March 16 and enforced a nationwide lockdown one week later, has reported 11,978 cases of the coronavirus and 681 deaths.

The majority of Romanians in the European Union’s socially conservative eastern state of 20 million are Christian Orthodox and the Church has considerable influence.

Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Janet Lawrence