A crane lifts into place the head of the world\'s largest statue of Jesus Christ
Plans to erect the world\'s biggest statue of Jesus on a hill overlooking Croatia\'s second-largest city sparked a backlash in the staunchly Catholic country, with thousands opposing it on Facebook
Split mayor Zeljko Kerum announced an initiative last week to erect a 39-metre- (129-foot-) high statue of Christ -- three metres (10 feet) taller than the world\'s current biggest in Swiebodzin, western Poland.
Kerum said the statue, to be erected on the Marjan hill that for many years sported big letters spelling Tito for the late Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz, was a \"good symbol.\"
\"It would be a tourist attraction, a new shrine ... We are however a Catholic town and a Catholic country,\" local media quoted him as saying.
The mayor of the southern Adriatic town said he believed a municipal commission would support his idea and citizens could decide about it in a referendum.
\"The project would be financed by donors and the city would not have to give a single kuna for it,\" Kerum said.
But the idea sparked a vivid debate in Croatia with many accusing Kerum, one of the richest businessman in the staunchly Catholic country, of populism ahead of parliamentary elections expected by the end of the year.
On Monday, almost 4,000 people liked the Facebook page entitled: \"Kerum, in Jesus\' name, don\'t build Jesus\" -- some arguing the money could be better spent on windmills or solar panels.
\"Mr Kerum, sins cannot be redeemed in such a way,\" read a comment posted by Sanja Kusbus in an apparent reference to Kerum\'s private life.
\"He is trying to gather people ahead of elections,\" added Mate Loncar.
Some said this was simply not the right place for such a statue.
\"If I want to see the statue of Jesus I will go to a church and pray to Him,\" posted Marko Gundic.
Two other Facebook pages supporting the initiative gathered several dozens of supporters.
Almost 88 percent of the former Yugoslav republic\'s population of 4.4 million are Roman Catholics.