The gay and transgender ambassador to the European Union Parliament, Riccardo Simonetti, is facing criticism after appearing on a magazine cover as a transgender Virgin Mary.
Simonetti is displayed by SIEGESSÄULE MAGAZIN, a German-based queer publication, as the Christian figure in two photos, according to images Simonetti posted to social media Wednesday.
On the cover, a bearded and tattooed Simonetti wore the veil and tunic of the Virgin Mary while holding a baby who appears to be Jesus.
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The second image showed Simonetti in the same attire accompanied by a man, presumably representing Mary's husband Joseph, wearing a pink tunic.
"If we ignore the fact that Jesus wasn't white, we could as well believe the Virgin Mary had a beard, why not?" Simonetti posted.
The gay and transgender ambassador thanked the publication for the "beautiful images" and said it was an honor to appear on the cover, according to the post.
"Feeling very proud and honored to be on the december issue of such a queer institution," he wrote. "Thank you to the amazing team who helped me create these beautiful images and refused to get paid for it, so the money can be donated."
Simonetti also took the opportunity to raise awareness for World AIDS Day.
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"I would like to encourage you to get tested, know your status and fight the stigma that HIV positive people still have to deal with," he wrote.