A church LGBT nativity scene featuring two mothers of the Baby Jesus rather than the traditional Mary and Joseph figures has enraged orthodox Catholics and politicians in Italy.
Nativity scenes are popular in the predominantly Catholic country, but they have become increasingly embroiled in cultural conflicts as its society has become more secular and multicultural in recent years.
The priest at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Capocastello di Mercogliano, a hamlet in Avellino province, approximately an hour’s drive east of Naples, defended the church’s depiction of Jesus’ birth.
“I wanted to show with this scene that families are no longer just traditional ones,” said Father Vitaliano Della Sala to Reuters.
“In our parishes we see more and more children from the new types of families that exist and are part of our society, children of separated and divorced people, LGBT couples, single people, young mothers.”
Father Della Sala, who is well-known in Italy for sympathizing with LGBT and left-wing issues, says his stance is consistent with Pope Francis, who enabled priests to bless same-sex couples in a landmark ruling this week.
Senator Maurizio Gasparri of the co-ruling Forza Italia party, on the other hand, stated that the LGBT creche “offends all those who have always had respect and devotion for the Holy Family.”
Pro-Vita & Famiglia (Pro-Life and Family) labelled it “dangerous, shameful, and blasphemous.”
Pro-Vita, which created an online petition requesting intervention from the bishop of Avellino, claimed the nativity display defied Church teachings on the family and legitimized same-sex parenting and surrogacy.
More than 21,000 people have signed the petition so far.
Surrogacy is banned in Italy, and parliament is debating a government-sponsored bill that would further criminalize couples that resort to the practice by travelling overseas.
This week, a senator from Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party introduced a new bill that would prohibit school administrators from prohibiting Catholic-themed events like Christmas plays or the creation of nativity scenes.