Nothing religious about bishop's staff: Akademi secretary on cartoon row

Nothing religious with bishop's staff: Akademi secretary on cartoon row
Subhash K K and Franco Mulakkal.
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Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Lalithakala Akademi secretary Ponniam Chandran has defended K K Subash's controversial cartoon, depicting rape-accused bishop Franco Mulakkal.

"The staff held by the bishop in the cartoon is not a religious symbol. The staff is a symbol of power. Cross is the religious symbol. There is creative licence to criticise the symbol of power," Ponniam Chandran said.

The secretary made his statements even as the Akademi top brass has said they would review the award given to the cartoon, which has drawn harsh criticisms from the Church.

He pointed out that this was the first time that an award was being reviewed in the history of the Akademi that came into being in 1962.

After the cartoon row, Akademi members have been receiving threatening phone calls. Most calls were reportedly traced to foreign countries. The Akademi secretary has given a complaint to the police after he received death threats.

The Kerala Lalithakala Akademi had picked K K Subhash’s cartoon ‘Vishwasam Rakshathi’ (Faith protects) for this year's best cartoon award, irking the Church community which alleged that the drawing humiliated Christian symbols. The Akademi then decided to re-examine the award.

Pastoral staff

The stylised staff which is known as crosier is a symbol of the governing office of a bishop. It is also called a pastoral staff or bishop's staff. It is said it has both secular and religious origins.

A bishop often holds his crosier with his left hand and bestows blessings with his right hand.

As Christ is called the Good Shepherd, the bishops are deemed to be the shepherds of their "flock" of Christians. Just as a shepherd controls his flock with his staff, the bishop's staff symbolises his guidance of the faithful.  (Jesus says "I am the good shepherd" in the Gospel of John.)

The Book of Exodus mentions the staff of Moses when God appears to him in the burning bush.

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