Religious groups are suing a Spanish artist
A religious group is suing a Spanish artist who spelled out the word 'pederast' with communion wafersGetty

A Spanish artist is being sued by a religious group in Spain after using consecrated wafers to spell out the word "pederast" in his new exhibition. The exhibition explores the suppression of dissent under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, who died in 1975.

Entitled Amen and featuring in Abel Azcona's exhibition in Pamplona, the piece uses 242 holy wafers to spell out the word pederast, in reference to the child abuse scandals that have hit the Catholic Church.

The artist claims he acquired the consecrated wafers by pretending to attend communion and pocketing them.

The Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers filed a lawsuit to close the exhibition, arguing that it breaks Spain's legal code.

The lawsuit accuses the 27-year-old artist of stealing the consecrated hosts "from masses in Madrid and Barcelona", and of the "repeated crime of desecration and crimes against religious sentiment."

"I don't know why a city council, no matter of what political stripe, would allow something which is clearly a crime," spokesman Polonia Castellanos told the Catholic News Agency.

A Change.org petition calling on authorities to ban the piece gained 98,000 signatures, and Spain's ruling Popular Party criticised the exhibition for an "absolute lack of respect", The Local reported.

Azcona is an outspoken critic of religion, claiming in a recent interview that "religion is at the same level as cancer or Aids, and in fact has killed more people than these better-known diseases." Azcona said that he had received abusive messages on social media, and that posters advertising the exhibition in the town had been torn down.

On 24 November, the offending exhibit was removed by unknown persons. "We have informed the artist and have both decided that this part of the exhibition will not be replaced but that the exhibition will continue until January," Pamplona City Hall said in a press release.