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Coronavirus: Art depicting Romania's health workers as Christian saints slammed as 'blasphemous'

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By Cristian Gherasim
Coronavirus: Art depicting Romania's health workers as Christian saints slammed as 'blasphemous'
Copyright  Wanda Hutira and McCann Worldgroup

Artwork depicting health workers on the COVID-19 frontline as Christian saints has riled the Romanian Orthodox Church.

The controversial posters have been appearing across Bucharest and are part of a campaign to thank Romania's medical staff.

“This is an abuse of Christian iconography, a pathetic artistic attempt," Vasile Bănescu, spokesman for the Romanian Orthodox Church told Euronews.

"It is not only blasphemous but also an offence to the honourable profession of doctors, who do not think of themselves as saints, or improvised saviours and do not claim a public cult.”

Romanian illustrator Wanda Hutira is behind the artwork and teamed up with international advertising agency McCann Worldgroup for the campaign.

“We wanted to show appreciation for the medical professionals who are achieving the impossible in their fight against COVID-19," representatives of the agency told Euronews.

"Despite reactions coming from the Romanian Orthodox Church and some believers, we had no intention to offend or provoke anyone, only to convey the work done by healthcare workers.”

The artwork portrays nurses and doctors as Christian saints and Hindu deities in a style mixing church art and cartoon aesthetics.

One healthcare professional, working at a COVID-19-dedicated hospital, told Euronews he enjoyed the artwork.

“I find them nice, original, and very well crafted, an innovative form of art with particular care for details," he said.

"I can’t understand why the Romanian Orthodox Church would go against the move when instead they should have backed it. Amidst a global pandemic, the Orthodox Church gets riled up over some drawings.

Another fan of the posters is a Catholic clergyman. Representing himself and not the Catholic Church, Şerban Tarciziu is the spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bucharest. He told Euronews he liked how the artist chose to praise frontline doctors.

“Likening them with saints and deities from various religions is a beautiful metaphor to express their effort and to show solidarity between all faiths in the face of COVID-19,” he said.

But not all doctors were happy with the drawings.

Adina Alberts said: “Blasphemy now is more dangerous than ever. We are dealing with a global pandemic which no one can stop and we should turn to the spiritual for answers. We are only a link in the chain of miracles. Doctors treat, but only God can heal”.

Alberts is the wife of a businessman and former politician Viorel Catarama who tried purposely to get infected with COVID-19 and prove that the virus is not dangerous.

The posters have been removed from certain locations following a request of Bucharest City Hall to replace the drawings with something that “won’t offend the faith of passersby”.

The majority of Romanians are Christian Orthodox and the Church retains considerable influence over social and political life in the conservative country.

People across Europe have been finding ways to thanks people on the frontline of the pandemic.

Footage has shown house-bound Italians, Spanish, French and Brits taking to their balconies to applaud key workers.

Wanda Hutira and McCann Worldgroup
Wanda Hutira and McCann Worldgroup
Wanda Hutira and McCann Worldgroup