The Nativity scene in the Italian town of Castenaso where the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus have been depicted as migrants in an inflatable dinghy, has triggered outrage from a local Bishop.
The crib was was the brainchild of the town’s left wing Mayor Stefano Sermenghi who wanted the installation in Piazza Zapelloni to pay homage to the dangers faced by migrants who attempt to get into Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in dinghies and other small boats.
A picture of the controversial crib will also be used on the town’s Christmas greeting cards. The gesture provoked the ire of local bishop Monsignor Ernesto Vecchi who said it violates the nativity scene.
“The central nucleus of a nativity scene calls for a child in swaddling clothes to be placed in a manger, and this must be respected,” Monsignor Vecchi told local newspaper Il Resto del Carlino.
“The most important part of the crib cannot be represented by a boat. I’m not complaining about it being included in the representation but it should be placed in another part and it should not have hosted the baby Jesus and the Madonna.”
The mayor wasn’t swayed by the negative reaction, saying it’s important to make migrants feel welcome. "In Italy many open their mouths but no one then makes anything concrete for a positive reception towards those who arrive.”
The latest figures from the International Organization for Migration reveal that 117,120 people crossed the Mediterranean and landed in Italy this year. Over 2,800 people died attempting to make the treacherous crossing.