Italy: Vatican academy defends Black Jesus tweet

Pontifical Academy for Life causes debate with "Black Pietà" tweet.

An image of Michelangelo's Pietà depicting Jesus as black, tweeted by the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, has caused much debate in Italy and elsewhere.

The pontifical academy has received praise as well as condemnation from conservative Catholic sites, particularly in the US, which have compared it in a negative way to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The photomontage, accompanied by the words "An image is worth a speech," was tweeted on 12 September, receiving hundreds of comments, many of them abusive, with accusations of "heresy,""sacrilege" and "blasphemy."

Others chastised with "Don't touch Michelangelo," or made parallels to Laszlo Toth, the Hungarian who vandalised the Pietà in 1972, with the comment: "He did less damage."

The pontifical academy has defended the post, stating that the image has "nothing to do" with the Black Lives Matter movement, but rather was intended to be a "360-degree message against racism," spokesperson Fabrizio Mastrofini told Italian news agency ANSA.