The charitable side of ... Madonna

Indira Das-Gupta

Madge has been crucified by the church for singing from a cross at gigs to remind the world of the Aids blight in Africa.

As the reigning Queen of Pop for two decades, Madonna is known as much for her propensity to cause controversy as for her music. And when she kicked off her long-awaited world tour in Los Angeles last week, she didn't disappoint.

The singer had church leaders in a tizz over her decision to perform her hit Live To Tell on a giant mirrored cross. While Her Madjesty - as she has been dubbed by the tabloids - sang, images of poverty in the developing world were shown on video screens as numbers ticked away to represent the 12 million African children orphaned by Aids.

"I don't think Jesus would be mad at me and the message I'm trying to send," she told reporters. But her agency was unable to say whether Madonna also planned to donate any of the money from lucrative ticket sales to Aids charities.

Other charities she has supported include the Fairtrade Foundation and the American Red Cross, and her set was one of the highlights of the Live 8 concert last year. Madonna also appeared in a number of television advertisements when the NSPCC first launched its Full Stop campaign six years ago.

The singer has probably done more to popularise the ancient off-shoot of Judaism known as Kabbalah than anyone else and has spent more than £5m on two separate properties for the sect in London.

She also supports a charity called Spirituality for Kids, which exists primarily to educate children about Kabbalah and has a quote from Madge on its website. Her daughter, Lourdes, attends the programme, and Madonna claims that she has "noticed a profound change in her".

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