Catholics in Spain forced international fast-food giant Burger King to withdraw an advertisement using the words of Jesus at the Last Supper.
The advertisement was promoting vegetarian burgers during the Holy Week, a time when most Catholics abstain from meat products.
The fast-food giant has apologized amid the backlash from Roman Catholics and has withdrawn the advertisement.
The campaign was in Spanish advertising its veggie burger, “The Big King Vegetable.”
The company changed the phrase “Take and eat all of it because this is my body” to “Take and eat all of it. There is no meat in it”; or “Flesh of my flesh” to “Vegetable of my vegetable.”
The goal was to attract the millions of Catholics who do not eat meat on Fridays during Lent, particularly on Good Friday.
The ad appeared at bus stops throughout Spain and caused a stir as Spain's population is nearly 60% Roman Catholic.
Although it is headquartered in the United States, Burger King has over 200 restaurants in Spain.
The phrase is used by Roman Catholic priests at Mass during the consecration of the Eucharist. The celebrant repeats the words Jesus said at the Last Supper shortly before his death, where he instituted the Eucharist: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you.”
The ad campaign provoked the outrage of thousands of Catholics, several priests, and a bishop.
Bishop Jose Munilla of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orihuela-Alicante took to social media to protest, tweeting: “Apparently, the loss of culinary taste and the lack of respect for religious sentiments go hand in hand.”
The reaction to the ad went viral on social media, it is learned.
On Easter Sunday, Burger King Espana responded on Twitter: “We apologize to all those who have been offended by our campaign aimed at promoting our vegetable projects at Easter. Our intention has never been to offend anyone and the immediate withdrawal of the campaign has already been requested.”
Lay Catholics launched a petition on Easter Sunday, which has amassed more than 30,000 signatures as of Wednesday (19 March).
The petition condemned Burger King for “[mocking] the Eucharist and the death of Christ in the most sacred time for Christians” and taking “advantage of Holy Week to launch an offensive campaign against the millions of believers to get publicity and money.”
The Catholic group CitizenGo called on Burger King International CEO Daniel Schwartz to fire Jorge Carvalho, general manager of Burger King in Spain and Portugal, because of the ad campaign. The petition characterized the campaign as an “offense to Christians.”
“Not everything is good to sell and the use of the words of Jesus as a marketing tool amid the commemoration of his death and resurrection is beyond acceptable,” the petition states.
Signatories of the petition indicated that they would never do business with Burger King if the fast-food company did not comply with their request to fire Carvalho.
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