VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis' choice of a "rainbow" logo by an Italian massage therapist is sparking a firestorm, with a phone number linking the designer to a gay porn website.
At a press conference in the Apostolic Palace on Tuesday, the Vatican declared Giacomo Travisani — a practitioner of New Age, sensual and healing massage therapies — the winner of its contest for the logo of the Jubilee Year 2025.
Travisani wiped his personal Facebook page clean on Friday morning as controversy over his sexuality and profession escalated, after outspoken Catholic politician and writer Mario Adinolfi alleged the logo's designer was a homosexual.
A mobile phone number on the therapist's professional Facebook page has been identified as the same number on a gay porn website. The number advertises, in Italian, a "beautiful massager for single men, couples ... at home."
In the description, the advertiser describes himself as a "nice masseur, dark, cute, beef, male, performs only at home, anti-stress massage for him only or couples" offering "50 minutes of relaxation, well-being and intense pleasure."
Pope Francis personally picked Travisani's logo as the winner out of the top three chosen submissions, Abp. Rino Fisichella told reporters, insisting that entries were identified only by a number to ensure the anonymity of the designers.
The contest received 294 entries from 213 cities and 48 different countries, with participants ranging from ages 6 to 83 submitting their artwork, added Fisichella, a former president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
"In fact, many were handmade drawings by children from all over the world, and it was truly moving to review these drawings that were the fruit of imagination and simple faith," the prelate noted.
Catholics on social media mocked the logo for its "infantile" artwork and its association with the colors of the homosexual rainbow flag, calling it an "embarrassing clipart" of "juvenile graphics for mental midgets and the emotionally stunted."
"The ubiquity of rainbow designs, flags and color means that the ordinary person is bound to associate the logo with the current fashion of gay pride," eminent British art historian Caroline Kaye told Church Militant. "Francis must know this and must further know that this design adds to that ubiquity."
A Vatican statement described the four stylized figures in the logo as representative of all of humanity from the four corners of the earth embracing one another in fraternity. While the first figure is clinging to the Cross, the figures have waves beneath them symbolizing the turbulent pilgrimage of life.
Kaye, a scholar in biblical and religious studies, responded:
One cannot help but be struck by the confident use of rainbow colors at the heart of the logo. The Vatican reveals much by what it does not show. The logo is a dishonest misappropriation of the biblical rainbow. The four figures in this logo are a rainbow of cloaked, mysterious and anonymous figures.
The logo's broken circle, cut into by the tail end of a thin blue wave and a bent cross, ought to suggest a holistic circle to represent the infinite, never-ending love of God. However, the bent cross might offer a clue to its unacknowledged yet blatant references.
The art historian also lamented the poor quality of the design:
The logo itself appears rather underworked, like a design in progress rather than a fully resolved emblem. The typography is the most pedestrian aspect of the thing, and overall it lacks any of the weight or gravitas one might expect from the Vatican.
Where is the beauty or ornate quality one expects in a design chosen to represent the love of God and the heart of Catholicism? One wonders further, given the riches of the Vatican's art collection, where did the winning designer derive his inspiration?
Travisani, a 50-year-old single man who claims to have been a graphic designer before becoming a massage therapist, explained in an interview he conceived "the first figure in his logo to be that of Pope Francis embracing the cross, followed by the rest of us."
"The curved cross almost seems to go against the wind, the cross also becomes an anchor that sinks into the sea," Travisani said, adding that the symbolism was nevertheless "open to everyone."
"I confess I did not believe much in the strength of my work because it was too modern; I thought that something much more solemn was needed. Fortunately, I had to change my mind," the masseur admitted.
Meanwhile, the LGBTQ+ Italian network Gayburg rushed to defend the logo's designer and attack Catholic politician and commentator Mario Adinolfi for making "insinuations" about Travisani's [homo]sexuality "comparing it to pedophilia."
"It seems unacceptable that an honest citizen can find himself associated with pedophilia only because Adinolfi argues that a masseur cannot know Genesis and cannot know biblical notions that even children know," Gayburg added.
Adinolfi, a former parliamentarian and president of the People of the Family, posted suggestive pictures of Travisani, jesting that the massage therapist could have been the beneficiary of a special favor from Abp. Fisichella.
Travisani offers a range of massage therapies from Swedish, Thai and Hawaiian to "emotional Californian" massage.
Some of his New Age massages like "reflexology" are based on the Chinese view of the life force ch'i and the concept of chakras in the Hindu practice of yoga.
On Friday, as the controversy over his sexuality and profession escalated, the masseur wiped his personal Facebook page clean of several suggestive pictures. Church Militant obtained screenshots of pictures before they were erased from the site.
Such therapies have "no rational or scientific basis, and randomized controlled trials show no evidence of its efficacy." Moreover, the Taoist and Hindu roots of such alternative medicine "alone make it not a wise choice for Christians," the Christian Medical Fellowship advises.
"The Vatican presents its emblem of hope as a badge of 'pride.' And pride comes before a fall," art historian Kaye warned.
Travisani did not respond to Church Militant's request for confirmation or denial of his mobile phone number as of press time.
Last year, Church Militant outed papal tailor and designer of clerical vestments Filippo Sorcinelli as a flamboyant homosexual activist.
The papal outfitter has launched a new range of four fragrances as "Extrait de Perversion" (Perversion Extract), which, "for the first time ... shamelessly recount the needs, desires and ... manifestations of human pleasure in its complex, erotic dimension."
Sorcinelli boasted how he created, in just two and a half days, a decorated white chasuble for Francis to wear at his first pontifical Mass in 2013. The homoerotic fragrances, which carry the label "parental advisory: explicit perfume," are described as "a journey through spirituality and harmony in the constant and daring search for beauty."