(CP) Burger King has apologized amid backlash from Roman Catholics in Spain for using the words of Jesus at the Last Supper to promote its veggie burger during Holy Week.
The fast-food giant launched a campaign in Spain advertising its veggie burger, The Big King Vegetable. The campaign used the phrase "Take and eat of it all of you" before noting that the product "doesn't have meat" and is "100% vegetarian" with "100% flavor."
Other advertisements employed the use of the phrase "The Flesh of My Flesh," with the word "flesh" crossed out and replaced with the word "vegetable." Although it is headquartered in the United States, Burger King has over 200 restaurants in Spain.
The ad includes the phrase used by Roman Catholic priests at mass during the eucharistic prayer when the celebrant consecrates the Eucharist. The priest repeats the words Jesus said at the Last Supper shortly before his death, where he instituted the Eucharist: "Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you."
The ad appeared at bus stops throughout Spain and resulted in significant pushback as Spain's population is nearly 60% Roman Catholic.
"Apparently, the loss of culinary taste and the lack of respect for religious sentiments go hand in hand," Bishop Jose Munilla of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orihuela-Alicante tweeted.
A picture of one of Burger King's ads accompanied Munilla's tweet.
"We apologize to all those who have been offended by our campaign aimed at promoting our vegetable projects at Easter," Burger King Espana posted on Twitter Sunday. "Our intention has never been to offend anyone and the immediate withdrawal of the campaign has already been requested."
A petition launched Sunday on CitizenGo called on Burger King International CEO Daniel Schwartz to fire Jorge Carvalho, general manager of Burger King in Spain and Portugal, because of the ad campaign. The petition characterized the campaign as an "offense to Christians."
"Not everything is good to sell and the use of the words of Jesus Christ as a marketing tool in the midst of the commemoration of his death and resurrection is beyond acceptable," the petition states.
Signatories of the petition indicated that they would never do business with Burger King if the fast-food company did not comply with their request to fire Carvalho. As of Tuesday, the petition amassed more than 28,000 signatures.
The petition condemned Burger King for "[mocking] the Eucharist and the death of Christ in the most sacred time for Christians" and taking "advantage of Holy Week to launch an offensive campaign against the millions of believers in order to get publicity and money."
In the U.S., Burger King has come under fire from conservatives for taking a side in the hot-button LGBT debate. Last year, in honor of LGBT Pride Month, celebrated in June, Burger King donated 40 cents to the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign for every Ch'King sandwich sold.
Some viewed the tweet announcing Burger King's partnership with the Human Rights Campaign as a veiled swipe at competitor Chick-fil-A, which closes on Sundays and is owned by a conservative Christian family that has voiced support for the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman.
Burger King's tweet noted the company's chicken sandwich sales would go to HRC "during pride month (even on Sundays)."
The fast-food organization made headlines in 2014 for selling a Whopper with a wrapper emblazoned with the rainbow colors that have come to symbolize the LGBT movement and a message on the inside reading, "we are all the same inside."