A nativity scene at a church featuring two mothers of the Baby Jesus, instead of the traditional Mary and Joseph figurines, has ignited controversy among conservative Catholics and politicians in Italy.
Nativity scenes, popular in the predominantly Catholic country, have become battlegrounds in recent years amid growing secularism and multiculturalism.
The priest at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Capocastello di Mercogliano, a hamlet in the province of Avellino, defended the unconventional depiction, stating, “I wanted to show with this scene that families are no longer just the traditional ones.” Father Vitaliano Della Sala, known for supporting LGBT and left-wing causes in Italy, said the scene reflects the diversity of families in contemporary society, including children from separated and divorced families, gay couples, single parents, and young mothers.
Priest says in line with Pope’s ruling on same-sex couples
Father Della Sala says his stance aligns with Pope Francis’s recent landmark ruling allowing priests to bless same-sex couples. However, Senator Maurizio Gasparri from the co-ruling Forza Italia party criticised the LGBT-themed nativity scene. Gasparri claimed it “offends all those who always had respect and devotion for the Holy Family.”
The Pro-Vita & Famiglia group deemed it “dangerous, as well as shameful and blasphemous,” launching an online petition urging the bishop of Avellino to intervene. They argue that the nativity scene contradicts Church teachings on the family and legitimises same-sex parenting and surrogacy. The petition has garnered over 21,000 signatures.
Notably, surrogacy is illegal in Italy, and parliament is considering legislation to criminalise couples engaging in the practice abroad.
In response to these cultural debates, a senator from Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party proposed a bill to prevent school directors from halting Catholic-themed activities, such as Christmas plays or nativity scenes.