According to the New York Times, a group of Italian children received a very nasty Christmas message during a school trip to a monastery in Sicily. The bishop of Noto made no bones about it: “Santa Claus”, bellowed the bishop during a speech in the local cathedral, “is made up”.
The bishop said Santa Claus doesn’t care about poor families, and Coca-Cola chose his “red coat to advertise”. One of the teachers present relates that the bishop opened the frontal attack on Santa Claus when he addressed the young children (not one of whom was older than nine). When one of the students sputtered because his parents had assured her that Santa Claus really did exist, the bishop snapped at her that “your parents lied to you”!
It’s not the first time Italian Roman Catholics have launched an attack on what they call the Americanization of Christmas. There have been several riots with priests trying to teach children a more ‘Italian Christmas’ in recent years. Bishop Staglianò also remembers the time when Italian children sent their wish lists to baby Jesus instead of Santa Claus, his reindeer “and that American mess”.
In the New York Times interview about the event, Bishop Staglianò goes one step further. “Is Father Christmas really everyone’s father? Or just some of them? Why did Santa no longer visit families he had visited before during the lockdown? It was certainly not out of fear of the coronavirus.”
Italian nationalists also oppose what they call the ‘cancellation’ of Christmas. They recently turned their attention to the European Union when it emerged that guidelines for internal correspondence were urging employees to use more neutral greetings around the holidays.
Even Pope Francis, who normally distances himself from nationalist leaders because he does not consider their views on migrants to be Christian, recognizes their outrage at the ‘cancellation’ of Christmas. “Many, many dictatorships throughout history have tried” to undermine the church, he said. “Think of Napoleon, but also the Nazi and Communist dictatorships.”
But Francis does not want to jump in the breach for Santa yet. Bishop Staglianò claims that he and the Pope are on the same page. “With all due respect, Santa Claus only gives gifts to those who have money,” whether the children have been naughty or sweet. According to him, the poor families and migrants whom the bishop visits every Christmas have “never seen Santa Claus”. He, therefore, called on the school children – if they saw Santa Claus – to ask him to give presents to poor children.
Staglianò says that none of the mothers present contradicted him and that some of the children felt empowered by his statements. “I knew, my father is playing for Santa,” said one of the students present, according to him. The bishop, therefore, thinks it is “progress” that the children realize that they have been lied to. The 62-year-old says that the children are thunders well know that Santa Claus is fake “If people of my generation knew it at their age, what about these kids with their smartphones”.
The local diocese is trying to add some water to the wine on Facebook. A spokesperson “deplores the statements that have caused disappointment among the children, that was never the intention of Monsignor Staglianò”. Only a few lines later, he complained about “Santa Claus, better known as consumerism, the desire to have, buy, buy, and buy more.