A re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion that was due to take place on the streets of Oxford had to be cancelled after an official thought that “Passion play” meant “Sex show”.
The traditional play, organised by St Stephen’s House theological college and St Mary and St John Church, involves a re-enactment of the trial and crucifixion of Christ in which actors playing Jesus, Mary, Pontius Pilate and Roman Soldiers would have paraded through the streets of the ancient university city.
The name “Passion play” comes from the Latin verb “patior”, meaning “I suffer”.
The Oxford play was first performed in 2012, when an audience of around 200 watched an actor playing Jesus carry a cross from Cowley Road Methodist Church to the Church of Saints John and Mary.
The performance took place without a licence, however, and this year police told them they must apply for one before the play could go ahead. The application was turned down, however, due to what is thought to be a blunder by a council official.
Oxford City Councillor Dick Wolff, who is also a United Reformed Church pastor, said: “Unfortunately, one of the city council’s licensing officers didn’t recognise that a Passion play on Good Friday was a religious event.”
“I think he thought it was a sex show, so he said it may be committing an offence.”
A church source told MailOnline: “A council official didn’t read the paperwork properly and didn’t realise it was a religious play, so told us we needed an events licence when we didn’t.
“If they’d told us 24 hours earlier, we would have had time to apply for and get one, but we ran out of time. It’s frustrating because we didn’t need one in any case – they just hadn’t read what the play was about.”
The Reverend Adam Romanis of St Mary and St John Church added: “It’s very upsetting because so many were looking forward to it. Someone said to me, ‘You can’t hold a crucifixion these days without a licence’.”
The councillor at the centre of the row, Julian Allison, has now apologised for the error. He told the Oxford Mail: “I would like to apologise for a wrong decision that I made late on Friday afternoon in relation to the planned Passion Play on Cowley Road.
“At the time of processing the application, I did not appreciate that this was a religious event.
“I made a mistake and by the time I realised my mistake, the organisers had cancelled the event.
“I apologise to the organisers of the event and those members of the public who had been looking forward to the event.”