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Rufus Wainright appearance at Sanremo called 'blasphemous'

Controversy stirred by singer-songwriter's 'Gay Messiah'

17 February, 15:44
Rufus Wainright appearance at Sanremo called 'blasphemous' (ANSA) - Sanremo, February 17 - Controversy swirled Monday around a scheduled performance by singer-songwriter Rufus Wainright next week at Sanremo, an Italian song competition and televised prime-time entertainment extravaganza. The Catholic youth organization Papaboys (the pope's boys) announced they are leading a demonstration by various groups next Monday against State broadcaster RAI and the Sanremo Festival for inviting the openly gay American-Canadian artist to perform, Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano reported on Sunday.

The Papaboys accused Wainwright of being "blasphemous" for his song Gay Messiah, about the arrival of a homosexual messiah.

The Papaboys called for the "intervention or resignation" of RAI management.

On Monday, RAI board member Antonio Verro weighed in on the side of Catholic sensibilities, saying, "We do not understand why the stage of the Sanremo Festival should offer visibility to an artist, like Rufus Wainwright, exclusively noted for the blasphemous tone of his songs".

"Public service television should not focus on this type of person and controversy to pursue bigger ratings. Otherwise, where is the difference with commercial television?" Verro added.

"Sanremo is the festival of all Italians and no one should feel like his civil and religious feelings were offended". RAI 1 Director Giancarlo Leone tried to dampen tempers in a press conference Monday saying, "I would like to put Verro at ease. The difference between commercial television and RAI is exactly in the fact that we have Rufus Wainwright and the others do not. We have no intention of creating controversy using this singer, who was, among other things, defined by Elton John as the greatest songwriter in the world".

"We will not make a scandal," Leone added.

Sanremo manager Claudio Fasulo explained that Wainwright was scheduled to sing the Beatles song Across the Universe, as well as Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, but no song that could offend religious feelings.