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Sun Apr 20 10:54:42 SAST 2014

Jesus is an All-Black, says SA-born reverend

Sapa-AFP | 22 September, 2011 06:510 Comments
The Prime Minister Helen Clark, led by the Very Reverend Frank Nelson, Dean of Wellington steps up to speak at the funeral service for the unknown warrior at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, November 11, 2004
Image by: Ross Setford / Getty Images

A New Zealand cathedral has taken the country’s devotion to its national rugby team to a new level, exhibiting a painting depicting  Jesus as an All Black.

The work by artist Don Little, painted in the style of a Russian  Orthodox icon, shows a haloed Jesus wearing and All Blacks jersey as he dispenses blessings while clutching a white rugby ball.

   The painting went on display this week at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Wellington and sold within a few days to an Australian  collector.

   Cathedral dean, the very reverend Frank Nelson, said the icon was fitting because rugby was often referred to as a new religion for New Zealanders.

   “Central to Christian belief is that God became a human being in  this world,” he told AFP. “Our Christian belief is that he happened  to do that 2,000 years ago in Palestine.

   “What intrigues me about this, and what I want people to think about, is that if it were to happen today, why should he not be an All Black?”   

Nelson said some people had been offended by the depiction of Jesus as a rugby player but most thought it was “a great idea”.

   He declined to say how much the icon had sold for but said NZ$1,000 ($795) of the proceeds would be donated to charity.

   Little said the painting was a light-hearted look at the place of rugby and religion in New Zealand.

   “The word ’icon’ is being flashed around everywhere nowadays, so  I just thought, ’what is a New Zealand icon?’,” he told the Dominion Post newspaper.

   “It’s a tongue-in-cheek way of saying, ’well here we go, our icon is football’. We pay more attention to football than most things, don’t we?”   

Despite the depiction of Jesus as an All Black, South African-born Nelson admitted he retained a soft spot for the Springboks after 20 years in his adopted homeland and his Rugby World Cup loyalties were divided.

   “I’m sitting on the fence,” he said.

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