Church apologises after Italian bishop tells children Santa does not exist

A Catholic diocese in Italy has publicly apologised after its bishop told a group of children Santa Claus does not exist.

The Roman Catholic diocese of Noto in Sicily said Bishop Antonio Stagliano was trying to underline the true meaning of Christmas.

The diocesan communications director, the Reverand Alessandro Paolino, said Mr Stagliano was also trying to explain the story of St Nicholas, a bishop who gave gifts to the poor and was persecuted by a Roman emperor.

Mr Stagliano was quoted in local media as saying Santa does not exist and his red costume was created by Coca-Cola.

“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,” Mr Paolino wrote on the diocesan Facebook page.

“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.”

However, Sicilian parents appeared not to buy the apology.

While several welcome the bishop’s attempt to focus on the Catholic meaning of Christmas, others criticised the bishop for interfering with family traditions and celebrations.

Some said he had crushed the spirits of children two weeks before Christmas.

“You are the demonstration that, when it comes to families, children and family education, you don’t understand a thing,” wrote one commenter, Mary Avola.

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