A crucifixion too far as TV stunt backfires

DOMINIK Diamond, a Scottish television and radio presenter, yesterday broke down in tears and refused to be nailed to a wooden cross as part of a re- enactment of the Passion of Christ in the Philippines.

What was to be the culmination of a Channel Five documentary provisionally titled Crucify Me, charting the presenter's journey to rediscover his faith, ended when Diamond was unable to go through the ordeal, which involves four-inch nails piercing the hands and feet of devotees.

Although Diamond was to be the first western visitor to take part in the ritual, in which committed Christians in the small village of San Pedro Cutud mark Easter by recreating the events of Good Friday, the presenter backed out at the last minute and was instead filmed weeping as he pressed his head to the cross and prayed.

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Seven Filipino devotees went ahead with the ceremony and were nailed to crosses in front of hundreds of spectators.

As part of his spiritual journey, Diamond, who was raised a Catholic and presents the breakfast show on the Scottish radio station Xfm, visited the Vatican and spent time at an austere Jesuit retreat in Italy in order to decide if he was strong enough to undertake the crucifixion ritual in the Philippines. Before his departure, he said world events and personal incidents had left him questioning his faith.

He had also gone through a period of insomnia which left him unable to sleep for days on end and when his prayers for sleep went unanswered, he doubted the existence of God.

Diamond said: "I thought this was such a simple thing to ask and He could not do it."

When he heard about the crucifixions in San Pedro Cutud, he realised "these people were the opposite thing, people who were so sure in their faiths".

Prior to his departure, he said: "I'm hopeful that this journey will help resolve my crisis of faith. I've been making a living in the media now for 15 years, I'm in my mid-thirties and I've got three kids.

"So if you're going to make the first serious programme you've ever done, you might as well aim high. So I thought I'd try to find God. It's about time I did something that didn't involve cheap gags."

Whether his failure to be crucified constituted a breach of contract with Ginger TV, the company behind the documentary, is unknown as Channel 5 was unavailable for comment.

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Among those who did go through with the crucifixion was Ruben Enaje, 45, a commercial sign maker, who was nailed to the cross for the 20th time. Mr Enaje said it was his way to thank God for surviving a fall from a building when he was a construction worker.

The ceremony itself takes place in an open field in the village, near San Fernando.

More than 400 police and volunteer guards were deployed around the village, where spectators and devotees gather. Some 15,000 turned out yesterday.

A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines cautioned that the traditions of flagellation and crucifixion during Holy Week trace their roots to animism and are not approved by the Church.

"They think that when they do that, they will receive blessings for the coming year. That is not a Christian idea," Monsignor Pedro Quitorio said. "If you have Christ in you, that's enough blessing. You don't need to duplicate what He did on the Cross."

The Church of Scotland had previously condemned Diamond's plans and said that he would be better off doing charity work.

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