Catholics protest provocative show at Toronto gallery

February 21, 2011
Artist Peter Alexander Por stands beside one of his portraits of Pope Benedict from his exhibit Persona Non Grata: The Veil of History.

CATHOLIC REGISTER PHOTO | SHEILA DABU NONATO

Artist Peter Alexander Por stands beside one of his portraits of Pope Benedict from his exhibit Persona Non Grata: The Veil of History.

A private Toronto art gallery has received thousands of emails protesting its controversial exhibit featuring a "bullet-ridden" Pope Benedict XVI.

Darrell Brown, Bezpala Brown Gallery president, said the gallery received about 8,000 emails in one hour from the American Catholic group America Needs Fatima, which launched a web campaign against Peter Alexander Por's exhibit Persona Non Grata: The Veil of History, running at the gallery until Feb. 25.

Brown first promoted the exhibit with a provocative press release under the headline "Pope shot, Obama crucified at the Bezpala Brown Gallery."

The release, referring to the clergy sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Church, read: "Pope Benedict XVI's portrait is riddled with bullet holes, a less than subtle expression of the hurt and anger directed at a pontiff and an institution that has abandoned its flock, choosing to focus on dogma while its subjects suffer and, in many instances, die from its archaic policies."

Joanne McGarry, executive director of the Catholic Civil Rights League based in Toronto, called the exhibit's message "very insulting, very misleading and inaccurate. Showing a bullet-ridden image of an identifiable public figure could be incitement to violence."

But Por told The Catholic Register in Toronto the portrait is not riddled with bullet holes.

Rather, he explained, the 37 holes, including one over the pope's left eye and others at the edge of his right sleeve and in his chest, represent a "visual pun" on the pope as a "holey" man.