Sex abuse protester poses as crucified Jesus

Dozens of cops and firemen were kept busy by an odd performance from an artist protesting against sex abuse by Catholic Church clergy in Vienna today (Fri).Hundreds of passersby and tourists gathered at the square in front of St Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) – one of the city’s main tourist attractions – when at 10am this morning Emmerich Weissenberger climbed up scaffolding in front of the building’s main entrance to pose as a crucified Jesus.After 20 metres, the Austrian cut open the dust-blocking tarpaulin and stuck his body through the gap where he remained in the position of Jesus on the cross for around 15 minutes.In a press release Weissenberger explained his oddball stunt: “On the day Jesus was crucified I crucify myself in place of all those who suffered a ‘social death’. They deserve our sympathy and our attention.”After forcing curious onlookers away – many of whom thought the stunt was initiated by the clergy to mark Good Friday – firemen laid out a safety mattress on the square in case Weissenburger fell, as police went to bring him down.Weissenberger – who was wearing nothing but a crown of thorns and a loin cloth – was eventually caught but only after disappearing behind the tarpaulin again.He was released after being questioned about his motives, and it emerged this afternoon he was facing criminal charges for property damage.St Stephen’s Cathedral parish priest Toni Faber said: “I think it’s absolutely wrong not to inform me beforehand. I’m someone who supports the freedom of art. It’s okay to protest against abuse cases in a creative way, but I find it hard to accept an artistic project when it is involves trespass.”Austria experienced hundreds of reported cases of violent or sexual abuse at Catholic institutions over the past few weeks, and it is expected significantly more than last year’s 53,000 will leave the Church this year.Pollsters Karmasin report today that 57 per cent of Austrians are of the opinion Pope Benedict XVI should resign amid sex abuse incidents at Catholic institutions across Europe were there a rule that enabled him to do so.Research by Integral found last month that 38 per cent believe the basic attitude of the Church has changed for the worse, while 56 per cent were no longer willing to entrust their children to the care of the Church.