A man dressed as Santa Claus greets children in in Guatemala City Photograph:( AFP )
The bishop also reportedly told a group of children that that the red suit was created by Coca-Cola for publicity
A Roman Catholic diocese in Italy's Sicily had to publicly apologise after its bishop told a church group, including children, that Santa Claus doesn’t exist and that the red suit was created by Coca-Cola for publicity.
The remarks of Bishop Antonio Stagliano during a recent religious festival didn’t go well with the parents, who sought an explanation from the diocese, news agency AP reported citing Italian media.
“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,” Rev Alessandro Paolino, the communications director for the diocese of Noto, wrote on the diocesan Facebook page on Friday.
Bishop Antonio Stagliano didn’t mean the comments, and was trying to underline the true meaning of Christmas and the story of Saint Nicholas, a bishop who gave gifts to the poor and was persecuted by a Roman emperor, Paolino explained.
He emphasised that the intention of the bishop was to convey how the image of Santa Clause is being misconstrued to promote consumerism among people instead of setting a good example: the joy of sharing and generosity.
“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,” he added.
While several welcomed the bishop’s attempt to focus on the Catholic meaning of Christmas, others blamed Stagliano for interfering with family traditions and celebrations, and crushing the spirits of children, whose early years were disrupted by the pandemic.
(With inputs from agencies)