Though Manorama has withdrawn the magazine and apologised for it, the church is not appeased.

Boycott Manorama continues Kerala church still upset over The Last Supper imitation
news Media Saturday, December 24, 2016 - 15:34

For many days now, different organisations related to the Kerala Catholic Church have been protesting against the Malayala Manorama Group after their magazine, Bashaposhini, published Tom Vattakuzhy’s artistic interpretation of "The Last Supper".

Vattakuzhy’s painting shows a half-naked dancer occupying the place that Jesus does in Leonardo da Vinci’s classic 15th century mural. The dancer is seen surrounded by nuns who replace the disciples of Jesus in the original.

Though the magazine was withdrawn from circulation after sending a few copies to its subscribers by post, the church started a campaign to ban Manorama publications. This move was made even though Manorama had withdrawn the magazine before the painting became a controversy.

Some reports said that announcements were made in church and other parish gatherings to boycott the news organisation.

Things took a turn for the worse and a number of protest rallies have been taking place across and state. Manorama newspaper copies have been burnt in public too.

The Manorama Group has been known for its close association with Christian churches and groups. Many a time, they've even been criticised for being the "mouthpiece of church". This setback was therefore unexpected and Manorama has been unable to appease the church by apologising and even withdrawing the circulation of the magazine.

Manorama, being the largest circulated daily in Kerala, enjoyed a strong religious, political and social support from particular groups.

Currently, however, it appears that most of the churches, convents, catholic institutions and so on have boycotted the newspaper. They have also been openly campaigning for other believers to do so.

According to reports, this is the first crisis of its kind that the news organisation has been facing.

However, liberal Christian groups have criticised the stand taken by the church in the issue.

“The church’s stand in the issue is utter foolishness and it also insults Christ. That picture was drawn by an artist out of his creativity. It is no way related to Christ’s last supper. Apart from the look of the original last supper painting and the picture drawn by Tom Vattakuzhy, they are completely different by all means - the elements used, characters everything. The controversial one is an art work of another artist,” says Reji Njellani, Chairman of the Catholic Priests and Ex-Priests & Nuns Association, while speaking to The News Minute.

Reji also alleged that the church has hidden political agendas behind the creation of this controversy.

Most of the protests against the news organisation were conducted under the leadership of the Kerala Catholic Youth Movement (KCYM) across the state. The KCYM state president, Sijo Elanthur, claims that their protests against the news organisation were for solid reasons and that the magazine intentionally tried to insult the religious beliefs of the Catholics.

“For a Catholic, the base of his belief is holy mass. The painting was related to the establishment of holy mass. So, the picture which appeared in Bashaposhini insults the holy mass. Though they have apologised for it, the copy has reached everywhere. Many have received it through post and online,” Sijo said.

He also condemned the claim that the church is intolerant to artistic freedom.

“We consider this as just an edited picture, there is no creativity in it. Creativity means the artist should do something of his own out of his ideas. But this is not out of his ideas,” Sijo alleges.

There are also allegations that another news organisation owned by the church in Kerala is intentionally playing up the controversy in order to bring down the circulation of Manoarama and boost their own.