An Italian bishop in Sicily is on an apology tour after telling kids that Santa Claus is not real and is a fabrication of the Coca-Cola company, the New York Post reported.
In a Facebook post Friday, the diocese of Noto insisted that Bishop Antonio Stagliano didn’t mean to hurt the feelings of kids and upset parents just two weeks before Christmas, the Post reported.
The bishop made his comments Thursday during a service where he said Santa Claus “was chosen by Coca Cola exclusively for advertising purposes.” Children were in attendance and immediately reacted to their parents, according to National Catholic Reporter.
Parents then took to social media to vent their frustrations, which led the church to issue an apology Friday after the terms “Coca Cola” and “Babo Natale” — which translates to “Father Christmas” in Italian — were trending on social media in Italy, the National Catholic Reporter added.
“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,” diocesan communications director, the Rev. Alessandro Paolino wrote on the parish’s 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.”
While the church says the bishop made the comments to show the true Catholic and religious meaning behind the holiday and that it is not about gifts, his example was not met with great acclaim.
It remains to be seen if Santa Claus will bring the bishop a lump of coal in his stocking on Christmas Eve.
Coca-Cola did not invent Santa Claus. The legend of Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, St. Nicholas, is said to be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas, who was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey, History reported.
St. Nicholas was such a popular figure that on the anniversary of his death on Dec. 6, there was a feast across Europe to celebrate his life and beliefs of giving, caring, and kindness, according to History.
In the 1700s, as Dutch settlers arrived in America, they brought the story of Sinter Klaas to what is now New York City and celebrated the saint on Dec. 6, History reported.
The translation of Sinter Klaas, which is short for St. Nicholas, has evolved to Santa Claus.