The German supermarket chain Lidl has come under fire for its decision to erase the cross from Orthodox churches featured in its ad to promote its “Greek week” products.
No sooner had Lidl’s Greek week started, dozens of clients called or wrote to complain about the missing crosses on Greek Orthodox churches. The affair filled social networks, with people demanding to know why Lidl was selling Greek products, but erasing part of the country’s culture.
The Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Duka, called the decision to erase the crosses “an unprecedented and immoral act”, denouncing it in a letter of support to the Greek ambassador in Prague.
Today we are seeing a falsification of photos, tomorrow we could see the real crosses removed, Cardinal Duka wrote in the letter which he said was a show of support for Greece but also a manifestation of resistance to falsification of history and an attack on the cultural heritage of the whole of mankind. Our European civilization has a number of roots and Greek democracy and philosophy are one of the most important ones, he said in the letter.
The PR campaign also brought an angry reaction from the Czech agriculture minister, Marian Jurečka, who accused Lidl of distorting reality and a cultural tradition thousands of years old.
“This is totally over the mark, it is improper, and unbelievably hypocritical,” Minister Jurečka said in response to the campaign and called on consumers to think carefully about whether they wanted to support such a policy by shopping in the supermarket chain during its Greek week.
Lidl, which was clearly unprepared for the strength of the protest apologized for the campaign, saying it had not meant to offend anyone, and had only sought to preserve religious and political neutrality.
Lidl’s spokeswoman for the Czech Republic Zuzana Holá said there would be no repetition of the offensive campaign.
“We apologize for this incident and you may be sure that we shall learn from this mistake.”
Lidl has stores in 27 countries. The PR campaign that raised hackles here in the Czech Republic was reportedly created by an international team. A survey among readers conducted by the news site idnes suggests that few people understand or support such a policy. Asked whether they mind the fact that Lidl erased the crosses from Greek churches 29,400 respondents said they did, while only 2,000 expressed the opposite view. The impact on sales of this scandal is not yet known.