Madonna show abuses religious symbols, says cardinal ahead of singer's Prague debut

Madonna, photo: MFDnes

The US pop star Madonna has been all over the Czech media recently, ahead of her first ever concerts in the Czech Republic. The two shows take place at Prague's Sazka Arena on Wednesday and Thursday and sold out in record time, despite unusually high ticket prices. But not everyone welcomes Madonna's visit: the head of the Czech Roman Catholic church, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, has issued a strong statement condemning Madonna's show. I asked his spokesman Martin Horalek why.

"His main objection is to the use of the cross and the crown of thorns and such religious symbols in Madonna's show - he said this is abuse or misuse of religious symbols. The Catholic Church is against the misuse or abuse of religious symbols just for a better or bigger...effect of some singer's show."

In your press statement you describe Madonna as the "so-called Madonna" but as far as I know that's really her name, it's not her stage name. So why do you say "so-called Madonna"?

"The reason is that there is some kind of connection with the name of the Holy Mary, and she uses it as well as her...singer's name - there is still some close connection with the religious symbol of Holy Mary. Cardinal Vlk thinks this is also some kind of abuse of the religious symbol of Our Lady."

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk
Her full name is Madonna Ciccone - she has an Italian background. Don't you think that she is perhaps influenced by Catholicism in her work? Perhaps a Protestant singer wouldn't think of being "crucified" during a show, and it simply reflects her background.

"She is certainly affected by Catholicism, it's pretty clear. But I think that she probably has some kind of problem with the Catholic Church and her faith. This is probably the root of why she still uses these religious symbols in her show, why she her daughter has the name 'Mary from Lourdes' and so on. It's pretty clear."

She's perhaps not the best singer in the world but she has managed to sustain her career for around 25 years now, partly by shocking people. Wouldn't you think it could be better to simply ignore her, and in a sense turn the other cheek?

"This is always a question. If we don't say our opinion people criticise us for being a silent church. My personal opinion is that in things like the Madonna concerts or the book The Da Vinci Code the popularity is so huge that in these cases it is probably cleverer to say loudly the statement of the Church, the position of religious people."