||DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish bookmaker Paddy Power was fending off the wrath of Christians in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Ireland on Friday over an advert depicting Jesus and the Apostles gambling at the Last Supper.
The billboard posters, on display in the Irish capital, adapt Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting of the event to show Jesus with a stack of poker chips, Judas with 30 pieces of silver and other apostles clutching hands of cards.
"There's a place for fun and games," says the caption.
Father Micheal MacGreil, Jesuit priest at St Francis Xavier's Church in central Dublin, branded the advert "grossly inappropriate and vulgar."
"This is an insult to the religious sensitivities of a lot of people and should be withdrawn immediately," he told Reuters.
"To abuse this image, which is central to Christian beliefs, in a vulgar advertising campaign is totally and grossly inappropriate and Paddy Power should apologize to the people." Paddy Power acknowledged it had taken a "load of flak" over the advert.
"We didn't mean to offend anyone so if anyone takes offence apologies for that," said a spokesman for the bookmaker, also called Paddy Power.
"It's a tongue-in-cheek situation -- people aren't supposed to take it as seriously as some people seem to be," Power said.
There were no plans to withdraw the posters, he added.
Two previous Paddy Power campaigns also caused controversy.
Animal rights groups complained about one showing a rabbit with a missing paw and the caption, "Make Your Own Luck," while another featured two elderly ladies using Zimmer frames to cross a road with odds written above them.
At the time, Power insisted it was a race to see who could cross the road first, but many saw the odds as relating to which woman would be run over by a car.