A Harvard University student group plans to hold a re-enactment of a satanic ritual on the school campus today, drawing criticism from Catholic officials who expressed "deep sadness and strong opposition" to the plan.
The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club said in a statement posted online that it planned to host "a historical re-enactment of a black mass ceremony that has a narrator providing historical context and background".
It said the event was intended to be educational and include a lecture on the history of the black mass, a ritual that parodies the Catholic mass, in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed.
The re-enactment will be performed by the Satanic Temple, a Satanist group that attracted attention earlier this year after it proposed the placement of a 72-metre-tall statue of Satan next to an existing Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma.
"Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes, but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices," the club said.
The Archdiocese of Boston has criticised the plan, calling on its faithful to pray for those involved and on Harvard to disassociate itself from the event.
A spokesman for the archdiocese, Terrence Donilon, said: "In the strongest terms possible we reject any attack on the eucharist", the ceremony in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed.
The event was scheduled at the Queen's Head Pub at Harvard's Memorial Hall.