Storm over Diana 'Madonna' statue
A controversial statue of Diana, Princess of Wales portrayed as the Virgin Mary is to go on show in Liverpool on Thursday.
The figure, on show at the Tate Gallery at the Albert Dock, shows the late princess dressed in the traditional robes of the Virgin Mary.
It is part of Heaven, a collection of work by artists from around the world. The artist behind the Diana sculpture, Luigi Baggi, is also behind a 15ft fibreglass statue of Jesus Christ, which is displayed on a floating pontoon.
Lord Alton, professor of citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University, said many people would find the exhibition "deeply offensive".
But Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, called the exhibition a reflection of today's society.
He said: "This controversial exhibition is a sign of our times. It reflects our culture and shows the huge gap that exists between traditional beliefs and the spirit of a new age."
He said he had not yet seen the exhibition in full, but had discussed its contents with the gallery's curator.
The Bishop added: "Like it or not, the church has to face up to the fact that although people are spiritual, many do not find the church fulfils their hopes.
"I see this exhibition as a challenge to Christians to communicate our faith at the end of this millennium with great imagination and compassion."
The Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev Patrick Kelly, said he would not be able to visit the exhibition because of other commitments.
In a statement, he said: "I would suggest we keep three things in mind.
"Firstly, Roman Catholic devotion to Mary is rooted in the Gospels which set before us Mary of Nazereth, her poverty, and her surrender to the word of God.
"Secondly, over the course of 2,000 years appreciation of Mary has been expressed in many forms of art no one of which would ever claim to tell the whole story.
"Thirdly comparisons might be made between the story of Mary, guaranteed to aspire the Gospels, and the story of anyone else, for example Princess Diana, and that would determine the authenticity of linking these stories through an art form."
BBC News - Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 14:18 GMT