Parents in Sicily are up in arms after a bishop at a Roman Catholic diocese told a group of children that Santa Claus does not exist.
On Dec. 9, Bishop Antonio Stagliano of Nato, Sicily, told a group of churchgoers, including children and students, that Santa does not exist and that his red costume was created by Coca-Cola for advertising purposes, according to the Associated Press.
The claim, made at “the festival of the Ephemeral Arts,” shocked both children and parents at the event, with many older churchgoers taking to social media to criticize the church for making the revelation just weeks before Christmas.
The diocesan communications director, the Rev. Alessandro Paolino, responded to the backlash in a Facebook post on the church’s public page.
“First of all, on behalf of the bishop, I express my sorrow for this declaration which has created disappointment in the little ones,” Paolino wrote, adding that he wants to “specify that Monsignor Stagliano‘s intentions were quite different.”
“We certainly must not demolish the imagination of children, but draw good examples from it that are positive for life,” he added. “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.”
Despite the clarification, parents continued to bash Stagliano and the diocesan for the bishop’s remarks on the comment section of the apology post.
“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.
“It would have been better to say: ‘I was wrong, I apologize if I offended the sensitivity of the little ones’ rather than seeking justification at all costs. Words, if used wrongly, can be baffled,” added Facebook user Calogero Kalos Castaldo.