Catholic bishops in Italy have drawn fury from parents for repeatedly telling crowds of children that Santa Claus is imaginary.
Bishop Antonio Stagliano of Sicily told participants at a 2021 feast day celebration for Saint Nicholas that Santa does not exist and his red costume was invented by Coca-Cola, according to the New York Post. When a child insisted that her parents told her Santa was real, the Bishop told her to say “you tell lies” to her parents, a teacher accompanying young students at the festival told The New York Times.
The local diocese apologized for the comments, explaining they did not mean to disappoint “the little ones” but to teach that the message of Santa should be about generosity, not consumerism.
A priest in northern Italy in told children there was no man dressed in red who “magically” delivered gifts in 2019, and a Sardinian priest told other children that Santa was really the children’s parents in 2018, the NYT reported.
Saint Nicholas, a third century Christian bishop known for giving gifts to the poor, has been venerated by the Catholic Church for more than 1,600 years and inspired European traditions of children putting out shoes at night and waking to find gifts in them.
Stagliano clarified in an interview that Italian children used to write their Christmas lists to the Baby Jesus, “not Santa Claus and the reindeer and let’s go to the movies and go bowling and all this American junk,” according to the NYT.
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