Despite protests from thousands of Spaniards opposed to the desecration of the Eucharist, the Pamplona city council has failed to pass a proposal to remove a sacrilegious art exhibit from a publicly funded exhibition hall. The exhibit involved the theft of more than 240 consecrated Hosts from Mass. Artist Abel Azcona stole the Hosts by pretending to receive Holy Communion at Mass, and then placed the Hosts on the ground to form the word “pederasty” in Spanish. “The council has insisted the author remove his work, but the council itself is not going to do it,” Polonia Castellanos, spokeswoman for the Christian Lawyers Association, told CNA. This was the second time the city council has asked Azcona to remove his exhibit, but they have received no response from him so far. Photos of the theft of the Hosts and their placement on the ground are shown in Pamplona’s publicly funded Conde Rodezno exhibition hall. The Hosts were laid out on display until a private citizen removed them. The Pamplona city council is governed by a Basque separatist coalition called Bildu. Maider Beloki, a councilwoman for the city’s Department for Culture, had helped unveil the exhibit. A Nov. 27 plenary session of the city council did not pass a proposal to remove the exhibit. The proposal came from members of the Unión del Pueblo Navarro (UPN), a center-right regional political party considered. Enrique Maya, a UPN spokesman, said there was debate over who should pull the exhibit as offensive. In his view, a city government team from the Department of Culture should remove the exhibit photos. Beloki commented on the debate on behalf of Bildu. She charged that “extreme right wing and fundamentalist religious groups have taken the opportunity to launch a political campaign against the council and its mayor” in order to “limit freedom of speech and to hide the harsh realities that lie behind the controversy.” Castellanos, however, said the exhibit’s opponents wanted to know what will happen if Ancona doesn’t remove his work as requested by the city council. She said “this kind of behavior could incite civil disobedience.” “What’s the point if the city council says something has to be done, they don't do anything about it, and nothing happens?" Castellanos asked. The Christian Lawyers Association had filed suit against the artist for violating Spanish laws related to religious freedom and respect for religious sentiments. The group said its lawsuit could be expanded to include Beloki. "If the exhibit continues, after the decision by the full session of the city council, we’re going to expand the lawsuit,” Castellanos said. “The city council has an obvious responsibility.” Masses of reparation were said Nov. 25 at the cathedrals in Pamplona and Tudela, a municipality about 50 miles south of the city. Mass attendees were explicitly told that Holy Communion would only be distributed on the tongue and had to be consumed in front of the priest. However, Azcona claimed on Twitter that some attendees stole 32 consecrated Hosts, though there was no way to confirm his claims. On Nov. 26, some 2,000 people demonstrated in front of the city council building against the art exhibit and called on Mayor Joseba Asirón to remove it. The crowd shouted “Blasphemy isn't culture!” and “Asirón, pull the display!” Hundreds had protested at the city council building Nov. 23 and Nov. 24. Nearly 400 people prayed the Rosary in front of the art display at the exhibition hall. More than 100,000 people have signed an internet petition against the blasphemous exhibit. However, Azcona remains defiant. He claimed on social media that these demonstrations and acts of reparation are “a marvelous continuation of my performance art. Amen.” Amid the controversy, vandals have sprayed insulting graffiti on several churches in Pamplona, including “hypocritical Church” and “Away with Opus (Dei)”.
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