Romania's Orthodox Church said on April 29 that posters depicting nurses and doctors dealing with the coronavirus outbreak as saints were an insult to Christian iconography.
The campaign is “marked by bad taste fed by ignorance and a hideous ideology that only knows how to caricaturize Christianity,” said church spokesman Vasile Banescu.
The posters are part of a wider European campaign designed to thank medical workers for their work in the pandemic. They depict nurses and doctors in a style mixing comic book elements with religious art.
Banescu said the posters were not just "a blasphemous act" but also an insult to doctors, who do not think of themselves as saints or "improvised saviors."
Bucharest city hall said it would ask outdoor advertising firms to remove the posters. In a statement it suggests they could be replaced by "images that bring homage to hero doctors without hurting the faith of passersby."
The posters were created by Romanian illustrator Wanda Hutira for McCann Worldgroup. The advertising agency defended the posters as a "gesture of gratitude for doctors." The company said they were a "daring artistic choice" that was in no way following a "political, religious, or any other kind of purpose."
The majority of Romanians are Christian Orthodox and the Church has considerable influence in the EU country of 20 million people.
Romania has reported nearly 12,000 cases of the coronavirus and 688 deaths, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University.