Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 12:02 UK

'Phallic' art sparks row ahead of Pope's Malta visit

Colonna Mediterranea sculpture, Malta
The Pope's route will pass by the monument

The mayor of a town in Malta has called for a "phallic" sculpture displayed close to the main airport to be removed ahead of the Pope's visit this weekend.

Mayor John Schembri described the art work as "vulgar" and "embarrassing", saying it should go "as a sign of respect" for Pope Benedict XVI.

Colonna Mediterranea was created by artist Paul Vella Critien and has been on show in the town of Luqa since 2006.

Mr Critien responded by calling his critics "ignorant" and "uneducated".

Pope Benedict's route through Malta will involve passing by the roundabout at the entrance to Luqa, where the monument stands.

"The object... is not the most fitting way in which to greet the Pope, especially by what is considered to be the most Catholic country in the world," Mr Schembri was quoted by the Times of Malta as saying.

He told the newspaper that the council would again appeal to the government to order the removal of the column.

Mr Critien said his creation was not a phallic symbol but a modern representation of a symbol dating back to ancient Egypt.

He said the Pope "would look at it as a work of art. [He] is not the man in the street".

The government has said it has no plans to remove the sculpture.

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