A Vision of Christ for the New Millennium ..or Is It Just Porn?; NOREEN BARR Reports on the Row Which Has Religious Leaders Up in Arms

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It has provoked a furious religious row. And it has been condemned as pornographic and blasphemous.

It has even been banned from view in parts of normally unshockable France.

Now I.N.R.I., the book which contains photographic portrayals of Jesus's life in modern settings, is heading for Scotland.

It could be on our bookshelves next year.

The front cover shows a bare-breasted woman on a cross.

Inside, the disciples are shown as thugs dressed in black, hanging around a railway track.

Jesus's meeting with Judas after the betrayal looks like a gay scene, as the two gaze into each other's eyes.

In other pictures, Christ is born in a garage, Judas commits suicide with a revolver, and Mary Magdalene is shown as a crude hooker, spread-eagled across a scarlet bed.

Salome, who had the head of John the Baptist cut off, is also seen as a modern tart - wearing a see-through top and with abreast poking out.

The pictures were taken by Bettina Rheims, President Chirac's official photographer.

It took pounds 150,000 - as well as 250 actors and models and 20 full-time make- up artists and scene builders - to create this lavish production.

French publisher Albin Michel has managed to infuriate the leaders of every major religion in France with the book, which takes its title from the inscription carved on Christ's cross.

I.N.R.I. are the initials of the Latin for Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

A Catholic spokesman, the Archbishop of Paris, slated the book as "purely and simply unacceptable".

He added: "The cover is downright provocative. They have violated a symbol of our faith."

Meanwhile, Muslim leader Doctor Dalil Boubakeur said that, as Jesus was viewed in the Koran as a major prophet, the book is "strongly blasphemous to all Muslims".

And Jewish leaders denounced I.N.R.I. as an "aggressive attack on believers".

Abbot Philippe Laguerie, a renegade priest expelled from the Catholic Church for his extreme views, persuaded a Bordeaux court to ban the book from public view.

Bookshop customers have to ask for it specifically, and staff must bring individual copies out of a cupboard and swiftly wrap them - or face a pounds 50 fine for having the book on display.

A STICKER on the copy we bought in Paris for over pounds 40 warns: "Do not open".

And when we showed it to Father Tom Connelly, of the Catholic Church in Scotland, he was dismayed. …