The Archbishop of Ottawa expressed regret that several Catholics were shocked at the sight of a giant robotic spider perched on the city's Notre Dame Cathedral, CNS reports.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said he was surprised by the negative reaction to an artistic initiative after critics called the spider’s placement “sacrilegious,” “demonic,” and “disrespectful” of a sacred space.
“My cathedral staff and I anticipated that some … might object, but thought it would be minimal, as nothing demeaning was intended in the spider being near the church,” said the Archbishop in an email interview with Canadian Catholic News.
“I regret that we had not sufficiently understood that others would see this event so differently. I say to those who were shocked that I understand that this would have been upsetting for them and that I regret that a well-intentioned effort to cooperate in a celebration was anything but that for them.”
The spider, named Kumo, is one of two giant robots created by a street theatre company of artists, technicians and performers based in Nantes, France. The company, La Machine, was in Ottawa late last month as part of celebrations marking Canada’s 150th birthday.
The show opened with Kumo “waking up” to organ music from inside the cathedral. As the spider, suspended from cranes, climbed off its perch between the towers, “snow” fell from above as part of the event’s special effects.
“I don’t understand how allowing a mechanical spider to stand on the cathedral is anything but disturbing, disappointing and even shameful,” wrote Diane Bartlett on the archbishop’s Facebook wall.
Others defended the archbishop’s decision.
“While the viewer may find the juxtaposition jarring, I gather it’s supposed to be,” wrote Kris Dmytrenko. “But sacrilegious? C’mon, give your archbishop a break. This civic engagement with art recalls the Vatican’s Courtyard of the Gentiles project. Culture is a bridge.”
The decision to participate in the show was motivated by a desire to engage with the wider Ottawa community, said Archbishop Prendergast.