ROME (NYTIMES) – All that separated the giddy Sicilian college kids from assembly Outdated St Nick – arriving on horseback along with his lengthy white beard, crimson gown and bag stuffed with items – was a Christmas message from the bishop of Noto.
“Santa Claus,” thundered Bishop Antonio Stagliano, “is an imaginary character.”
Kids’s jaws dropped and the vacation wool fell from their eyes as, for a lot of lengthy minutes within the Santissimo Salvatore Basilica, the bishop continued to stay it to Santa, who he stated had little interest in households strapped for money.
“The purple color of his coat was chosen by Coca-Cola for promoting functions,” the bishop stated. Large soda, he added, “makes use of the picture to depict itself as an emblem of wholesome values”.
The bishop’s broadside in opposition to Babbo Natale, as Father Christmas is named right here, constituted solely the most recent installment in what has turn out to be a brand new Italian vacation custom. Nearly yearly, Roman Catholic clerics insist that for Italians to maintain Christ in Christmas, Santa should be saved out of it.
In 2019, a priest within the northern city of Magliano Alpi instructed kids that there was no man wearing purple who “magically” delivered items. In 2018, within the Sardinian metropolis of Quartu Sant’Elena, one other priest drew tears by revealing that Santa Claus was in actual fact none apart from their mums and dads.
This 12 months’s episode, on Dec 6, the feast day of St Nicholas, was particularly brazen, stated Ms Giuliana Scarnato, one of many academics accompanying the kids, none older than 9, on a college journey to the church in Noto.
She stated that when one of many kids protested, telling the bishop that her dad and mom had assured her Santa was actual, the cleric responded that the kid ought to inform her dad and mom “you inform lies”.
The bishop stated he remembered placing it extra tactfully and insisted he merely defined that the roots for Santa lay within the historic personage of St Nicholas, a charitable fourth century bishop of Myra, in modern-day Turkey, who, custom holds, sorted the poor.
He had sturdy emotions on the matter.
“Is Father Christmas everybody’s father, or simply some?” he stated, poking holes within the case for Santa Claus. “Within the lockdown, Father Christmas did not go to the households that he used to. Why? It is undoubtedly not for concern of the coronavirus.”
This 12 months, nationalists opened a brand new entrance in Italy’s combat over the form of Christmas. Determined for a difficulty with widespread enchantment in a interval of political stability, they’ve picked up on the American proper’s declare to be opposing a struggle on Christmas.
For them, the primary goal has been not Santa Claus however the European Union.
In November, a conservative Italian newspaper found that an EU commissioner’s workplace had drafted pointers for inside correspondence, calling for extra inclusive, gender-neutral and fewer holiday-specific language.
“Not everybody celebrates the Christian holidays and never all Christians have a good time them on the identical dates,” learn the doc, which suggested workers to keep away from phrases like “Christmastime might be annoying”. Higher, it urged, could be “Vacation occasions might be annoying”.