A Spanish artist has provoked outrage after stealing 242 consecrated communion wafers and using them to spell out the word “pederasty” in a piece of modern art.
Over 100,000 people have now signed a petition demanding Abel Azcona’s piece “Amen” be taken down immediately, while religious groups have started legal action against the exhibit.
— Abel Azcona (@abelazcona) August 2, 2015
As of Wednesday morning, the wafers had disappeared from the exhibit in the city of Pamplona, and the local council said the piece would be retired.
According to Church teaching, the communion wafer becomes the body of Christ upon consecration during Mass, and is from then on referred to as the Host – derived from the Latin word hostia, meaning sacrificial victim.
Desecrating or misusing a Host is therefore considered a deeply serious matter by the Catholic faith.
The Local reports that Mr Azcona claims he stole the Hosts after pretending to receive communion in various churches across Spain. Instead of eating the wafers, however, he walked away with them in his hand.
— Abel Azcona (@abelazcona) November 22, 2015
He is known for his left-wing anti-religious views, saying recently in an interview: “Religion is at the same level as cancer or AIDS, and in fact, it has killed more people than those diseases.”
For a previous work he received hormone treatment and became a transsexual prostitute.
Before the exhibit was taken down, the Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers filed a lawsuit demanding it be closed, accusing the artist of the “repeated crime of desecration and crimes against religious sentiment”.
However, Mr Azcona did not appear fazed by the lawsuit. “If there’s a trial, there’s a trial,” he said, adding: “I’ve committed no crime”.
Despite the severity of the offence caused, however, there have been no reports of violence. Local paper Noticias de Navarra says that Catholics gathered outside praying rosaries, singing and shouting “Long live Christ the King!”
— Abel Azcona (@abelazcona) November 24, 2015
Meanwhile, the ease with which Mr Azcona was able to steal the hosts will be a cause for concern among Church authorities.
Receiving communion in the hand while standing up, as opposed to on the tongue while kneeling, has become standard in many Catholic churches since the 1960s, but the practice has received criticism for lack of reverence and the ease with which people can walk off with the consecrated Host.