Apparently Jesus is not endorsing anyone in the World Cup soccer tournament that kicks off in Brazil on Thursday. At least that’s the impression the Brazilian Catholic Church is giving by threatening to sue Italian national broadcaster RAI for superimposing a blue Italian official World Cup jersey on the Christ the Redeemer statue that towers over Rio de Janeiro as part of promoting their exclusive World Cup soccer coverage in Italy.
The ad, set to classical music, shows barefoot Brazilian kids playing street soccer with jerseys from various nations. Presumably because the ad is Italian, the kid wearing the Italian jersey score the winning goal. Then the iconic flyover image of the Christ the Redeemer statue, this time wearing a No. 10 Italian jersey, closes the segment with the words “Brazil awaits us.”
When the Brazilian Catholic Church got wind of the ad, they threatened to sue RAI for around $9 million for copyright infringement since they own the statute and its licensing rights. Rodrigo Grazioli, a lawyer for the Brazilian church, told Brazilian O Globo newspaper that the Archdiocese of Rio is “deeply offended” by the advertisement, which RAI has since taken off the air. “It is like if Brazilian TV were to publicize something in which Samba girls engaged in lewd behavior with the gladiators of the Coliseum,” he added, obviously unaware how sexist Italian tv can be sometimes.
The Brazilian Church also lashed out at an Australian gambling company for launching a massive Christ the Redeemer hot air balloon over Melbourne in the Australian World Cup kit earlier this week with the words “#KEEPTHEFAITH” scrawled across the uniform. This time they said that faith and football are both sacred to Brazilians, implying that if anyone gets to hang their jersey on Christ the Redeemer, it will be Brazil’s national team. “One of the great statues in Rio is Jesus, and Brazil is a Catholic nation that takes its faith seriously and its football fanatically," Reverend Tim Costello, an anti-gaming advocate told Yahoo News "You don't exploit those things that are sacred to people simply for your own advertising reach and I think that soccer as a world game should be sensitive to that and certainly express their disdain for these types of advertisements."