A religious organisation in Brazil has condemned a sports publication for sanctioning a front cover depicting the Santos striker being crucified, labelling it "disrespectful"The Brazilian National Bishops Confederation (CNBB) has criticised Placar magazine for bearing a photograph of Neymar being crucified in the same way as Jesus Christ.
Placar, which has become one of the most successful sports publications in Brazil since its inception in 1970, were using the picture as a metaphor to highlight the criticism the star had been coming under for supposedly diving too often.
In a letter, signed by CNBB president Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis and general secretary Dom Leonardo Ulrich Steiner and posted on the organisation's website, the publication came under fire for "showing disdain towards people's feelings".
"The Brazilian National Bishops Confederation states that it feels severely outraged with the [photo] montage that is is the cover of a sports magazine, where the image of Jesus Christ is seen with the face of a football player," read the statement.
"We acknowledge freedom of speech as a fundamental principle of our state and [see it as necessary for] democratic co-existence, however, there are known limits for such.
"To ridiculise faith and show disdain towards peoples' religious feelings by using the disrespectful use of the image of Jesus suggests manipulation and use of editorial resources as a means for commercial ends.
"The magazine has shown itself as being insensitive to the recent context of deplorable violence caused by the inadequate use of religious images and, with that, has made a bad contribution towards a consolidation of respectful co-existence between different beliefs.
"This [photo] montage uses the image of Jesus in an explicit manner, even if the magazine director denied this evident fact.
"This is a clear lack of respect that offends the most sacred image for Christians and updates, in a hazardous manner, the well-known resource of gaining attention by provocation."
An online petition has now been launched against Placar's use of the image of Neymar as Jesus Christ, which has gained over 7,000 signatures since its manifestation.