An Australian gambling company has outraged Christians and others by sending a hot-air balloon that looks like Brazil's Christ the Redeemer statue into the skies above Melbourne as a 2014 FIFA World Cup advertisement. An Italian state television channel also featured a similar ad in support of Italia.
A 151-foot Jesus balloon wearing an Australia soccer jersey with the words "#KeepTheFaith" on the back was sent into the sky by the gambling company Sportsbet in the run up to the World Cup, which opened on Friday.
The Rev. Costello, the chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, criticized the advertisement.
"One of the great statues in Rio is Jesus, and Brazil is a Catholic nation that takes its faith seriously and its football fanatically," Costello told Yahoo! Australia. "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."
Sportsbet claimed it sought to offer support to the Australia National Association football team, Socceroos.
"So our balloon supporting the #Socceroos is arrogant? Arrogance would have been putting the World Cup trophy in his hands #KeepTheFaith," the gambling website tweeted.
Australia will face Chile, Spain and the Netherlands in the World Cup.
"Let's be honest, the Socceroos need a divine intervention in order to progress past their opponents," Shaun Anderson, PR manager for Sportsbet, was quoted saying. "The message the company aimed to get across is for all Aussies to keep the faith in the Socceroos."
However, Deputy Premier Peter Ryan has said the ad is disrespectful and that the hot-air balloon must be brought down.
A resident, identified only as William, told Guardian Liberty Voice that the marketing campaign is deliberately and utterly offensive to the entire Christian population.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Brazil has also objected to a commercial run by Italy's state television channel Rai Italia featuring Christ the Redeemer statue wearing a jersey for Italia.
The Telegraph reports that the Archdiocese of Rio has threatened the channel with a copyright suit with damages of about $10.1 million.
"At a time when religious values seem to have become insignificant and everything is commercial, it's right to feel indignation, even with an act of force," Edio Costantini, president of a sports organization of the Vatican, CSI, told Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, according to The Huffington Post.
"We live in a world that has put God on the bench," Costantini told The Local.