Italian bishop is forced to apologise after telling children Santa is not real
What a Grinch.
A bishop in Sicily stirred controversy in Italy after he recently told his stunned congregation, including many small children, that "Santa Claus does not exist."
His words "froze" the children present in the church in Noto, reports Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, leading to complaints from outraged parents – and a major backlash on social media.
Bishop Antonio Staglianò then went on to launch an attack on Coca Cola, saying that the red costume of Father Christmas "was chosen for advertising purposes."
The bishop's unexpected outburst from the pulpit of the Santissimo Salvatore church resulted in "speechless children, bewildered parents", reports the Corriere.
The clergyman later explained his intentions. "I said that Santa Claus is not a historical person like St Nicholas", as part of an attempt to "recover the true meaning of the Christian tradition of Christmas".
The bishop then waded deeper by stating: "For the rest, the children know that Santa Claus is their dad or their uncle. So no broken dreams."
A PR disaster for the church and parish, the Roman Catholic diocese of Noto in Sicily had to take to social media to insist that Bishop Stagliano did not mean to dash the dreams of youngsters two weeks before Christmas.
Posting on Facebook, communications director, Alessandro Paolino said Mr Stagliano was trying to underline the true meaning of Christmas and the story of St Nicholas, a bishop who gave gifts to the poor and was persecuted by a Roman emperor.
"First of all, on behalf of the bishop, I express my sorrow for this declaration which has created disappointment in the little ones, and want to specify that Monsignor Stagliano's intentions were quite different," Mr Paolino wrote.
"We certainly must not demolish the imagination of children, but draw good examples from it that are positive for life," he continued.
"So Santa Claus is an effective image to convey the importance of giving, generosity, sharing. But when this image loses its meaning, you see Santa Claus aka consumerism, the desire to own, buy, buy and buy again, then you have to revalue it by giving it a new meaning."
While several parents in the diocese welcomed the bishop's attempt to focus on the Catholic meaning of Christmas, others criticised Mr Stagliano for interfering with family traditions and celebrations, and crushing the spirits of children whose early years were disrupted by the pandemic.
As one one commenter wrote:
"You are the demonstration that, when it comes to families, children and family education, you still don't understand a thing."