An art exhibition portraying the Virgin Mary in a floral bikini has been branded "offensive" by a Catholic bishop.
The image by Mexican artist Alma Lopez shows 'Our Lady of Guadalupe' with her hands on her bare hips. It is part of her exhibition of her artworks which opened today at University College, Cork, entitled 'Our Lady and Other Queer Santas.' Mary is portrayed standing on a black crescent which is held up by a bare-breasted female with butterfly wings.
Bishop of Cork and Ross John Buckley declared: "It is regrettable and unacceptable that this exhibition seeks to portray the mother of God in such an offensive way.
"Respect for Mary, the mother of god, is bred in the bones of Irish people and entwined in their lives.....True pluralism respects the beliefs of all faiths and does not seek to ridicule the faith and convictions of any believer."
Cork TD Jerry Buttimer said the university should not host an event which is considered by many people to be "overtly blasphemous and blatantly disrespectful."
The Fine Gael politician called on the university authorities to reconsider their decision to allow the exhibition on its campus "without affording others the opportunity to present an alternative and balanced point of view."
"As we move towards a pluralist society we must ensure that there is respect for all religions and none. However, it is not acceptable for any person or artist to denigrate another's beliefs or to use art as a catch-all excuse for bigotry, prejudice or blasphemy.," he said.
The exhibition, which opens tomorrow, is part of a conference at the college on Chicano culture which refers to US citizens of Mexican descent. The conference was organised by the college's Mexican Studies Centre.
A second exhibition is also part of the conference which features the art of Celia Herrera Rodriquez entitled Prayer for Mother Waters.