Sicily’s Roman Catholic bishop Antonio Stagliano was reported to have told children that
Santa does not exist, prompting the diocese to apologize to children.
The diocese said in a Facebook post that the bishop did not intend to ruin children’s charm of Christmas.
Diocese communications director Alessandro Paolino expressed his “sorrow” for the
declaration and said the bishop was trying to reflect on the greater meaning of Christmas “,
starting with the historical figure of St. Nicholas, who dispensed gifts to the poorest.”
Italian news reports quoted Stagliano saying during a recent religious festival that Santa
doesn’t exist and that the Coca-Cola company created his red costume for publicity.
“We certainly must not demolish the imagination of children but draw good examples from
it that are positive for life,” Paolino said.
He said that from the figure of Santa Claus, people should draw a lesson about giving and sharing instead of consumerism.
But, if the public comments section of the Noto page were any indication, the Sicilian parents weren’t having any of it.
While several welcomed the bishop’s attempt to focus on the Catholic meaning of
Christmas, others faulted Stagliano for interfering with family traditions and celebrations
and crushing the spirits of children whose early years were disrupted by the pandemic.
“You are the demonstration that, when it comes to families, children and family education,
you don’t understand a thing,” a commenter, identified as Mary Avola, wrote.
Paolino responded to comments with another apology: “Dear parents, we are very sorry to
have offended your sensitivity. We are well aware of your important and irreplaceable educational role.”
“However, I reiterate that the intentions were not intended to extinguish the expectation of
the little ones regarding Christmas and the beautiful traditions that accompany it.”