The movement to take “Christ” out of Christmas has spread to Catholic Italy’s public schools, sparking a national debate. The Vatican has spoken out, urging Christians to maintain and respect their traditions and identity.
An elementary school in the northern city of Treviso decided last week to substitute the traditional Nativity play this year with Little Red Riding Hood so as not to offend Muslim children. The school's traditional Nativity scene was scrapped as well, reported Reuters.
This was the latest in a series of similar events in recent weeks. In a school near Milan, the word "Jesus" in Christmas song was substituted with the word "virtue." In Vicenza, an annual contest for the best Nativity scene in schools was canceled.
"Are we losing our minds?" Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli of the populist Northern League reportedly said. "Do we want to erase our identity for the love of Allah?"
"It is a perfect example of how not to respect the presence of different people, in this case our Muslim brothers, by annihilating our own identity," Bishop Agostino Marchetto, head of the Vatican's department for migrants, told reporters. "We have to accept others but others have to accept our identity.”
On national television Wednesday, Camillo Cardinal Ruini of Rome said traditional Nativity crèches must be respected.
"These things can seem small but the spirit behind them is radically wrong and can have very heavy consequences on our young people," he said.
Hamed Shaari, head of a major Islamic cultural institute in Milan, said it was "senseless" to change the words of a Christmas song that has 2,000 years of tradition behind it.
"It's great that people are aware of our feelings but traditions should be respected. This way, we can respect ours as well," he said.
Islam is the second largest religion in Italy. There are 57 million people in Italy; one million are Muslims.