Meet the priests of Italy’s ‘Roman beefcake’ calendar

ROME (RNS) "It's about marketing," said Piero Pazzi, the photographer behind the annual calendar featuring attractive priests of Italy. "It's a souvenir, not a statement of any kind."

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ROME (RNS) Now in its 10th edition, the annual wall calendar best known for its black-and-white photos of attractive priests continues to spark grumbles of controversy in Italy.

Officially, it’s called “Il Calendario Romano” — The Roman Calendar — but it is popularly referred to as the “Roman beefcake calendar.”

According to Piero Pazzi, the Venice-based photographer who takes the photos and produces the calendar each year, almost all of the men he photographs — many of them in front of churches or religious monuments — are priests or seminarians. But the religious connotations end there.

According to Italian media reports, the calendar has become a kind of icon for groups ranging from female Protestant clergy to gay men. Some critics claim it projects an inappropriate image for the clergy.

But Pazzi, who produces other wall calendars, including one showing cats, brushes aside those complaints.

“It contains a great deal of important information for tourists in Rome, but I know that if I printed that by itself on a piece of paper nobody would look at it,” he said. “It’s about marketing. It’s a souvenir, not a statement of any kind.”

The 2014 edition of the calendar, which is not produced in cooperation with any religious institution, costs 10 euros (about $14) at most Vatican-area gift shops or online.