Christmas Day is always bustling at the Vatican because of the gathering of the faithful in St. Peter’s Square to witness the Pope give his Holy Day homily. This Christmas was notable for another reason, the arrest of a bare-chested protestor who had snatched the statue of the Baby Jesus from the Vatican’s life-sized nativity scene.
The protestor, a Femen activist named Yana Zhdanova, was being held for questioning by Vatican authorities, and could face charges of theft, insults, and committing obscene acts in public. Zhdanova had grabbed the statue about an hour after Pope Francis’ blessing on Thursday. A Vatican guard detained the woman, quickly covering her with his cape. Zhdanova clutched the statue to her, shouting “God is woman.”
This isn’t the first time the activist has been arrested for her protests. In 2012, the Inquisitr reported that a topless Zhdanova tried to attack the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, at the Kyiv airport. Written on her body were messages saying to “Kill Kirill,” and “Kirill go to hell.” She was also fined for attacking a statue of Vladimir Putin in June. According to a report by NBC News, written on her bare breasts was the message, “Kill Putin.”
Zhdanova is a member of a feminist protest group called Femen. They were founded in the Ukraine in 2008, but now they are based out of Paris. They claim to have approximately 30 activists in France, but other women usually join their protests. The group is known for protesting topless against sex tourism, homophobia, religious institutions, and many other national and international topics.
As The Guardian reported, the Vatican could try Zhdanova as they have the right to try transgressors on their territory, or they could hand her over and let the Italian courts handle the prosecution. The Vatican is also holding a businessman, Marcello di Finizio, who had been arrested on Friday for scaling the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica in protest over an EU directive.
Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesperson, said the Zhdanova incident would be taken seriously because of the location and the solemnity of the event that was interrupted. He said the incident was done to “intentionally offend the religious feelings” of those who had been present.
As Yahoo! News reported, the Vatican was targeted by Femen last month when three members of the group bared their breasts in protest over the pope’s visit to the European Parliament. However, this is the first time the Vatican has detained any of their members. The Zhdanova arrest seems to be a message for the group according to Lombardi.
“It is therefore correct to proceed with the appropriate rigor against repeated acts that intentionally, repeatedly and severely infringe on the right of the faithful to the respect of their legitimate religious convictions.”
[Image by the Associated Press]