'Obscene' sculpture must go before pope visits Malta: mayor

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The Independent Online

The mayor of a town near Malta's main airport called Monday for the removal of a sculpture resembling a penis near the road leading to the capital Valletta ahead of a weekend visit by the pope.

The sculpture, which Mayor John Schembri described as "obscene" and "embarrassing", should be removed "as a sign of respect" for Pope Benedict XVI, he said.

"Colonna Mediterranea" (Mediteranean Column) is the work of ceramic artist and sculptor Paul Vella Critien and was installed on a roundabout at the entrance to the village of Luqa in January 2006.

Many residents of predominantly Catholic Malta have complained about the sculpture, which Critien describes as a modern three-dimensional representation of a symbol dating from ancient Egypt.

Similar works by Critien have been erected in Germany, Italy and Australia.

The pope is to visit on Saturday and Sunday after recent revelations that a paedophilia "response team" set up by the Maltese Catholic Church in 1999 had received allegations against 45 priests.

Nearly half of the cases have been ruled groundless, the Church said Monday, adding however: "For the Church, every case is one too many."

The Roman Catholic Church has battled a wave of paedophile priest scandals in the United States and Europe since last November.

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