A Roman Catholic diocese in Sicily has apologized to the community after its bishop claimed to a church group, including children, that Santa Claus wasn’t real and that his red suit was created by the Coca-Cola Co. to sell drinks.
Parents erupted and complained to the diocese, which issued what appeared to be a largely unsatisfying apology in a statement Friday on Facebook on behalf of Bishop Antonio Stagliano.
“I express regret for this statement that has led to disappointment in the little ones,” wrote the Rev. Allessandro Paolino, the diocese communications director.
The bishop merely intended to complain that the true meaning of Christmas was getting lost in increasing consumerism, and apparently got carried away, Paolino explained.
“We certainly must not demolish the imagination of children, but draw good examples from it that are positive for life, so Santa Claus is an effective image to convey the importance of giving, generosity, sharing,” Paolino explained, according to an Associated Press translation from the Italian.
“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.”
That explanation appeared to placate very few, though some appreciated the attack on consumerism.
“When it comes to families, children and family education, you don’t understand a thing,” one commenter wrote.