18 December 2020
St. Peter's Square in the Vatican has had a few unusual nativity scenes over the years. But this year's scene looks like it came from outer space. Many people have criticized it.
A nativity scene is a group of objects organized to show the birth of Jesus Christ. Nativity scenes are traditionally shown during the Christmas season.
This year's nativity scene in St. Peter's Square has an astronaut and a character that looks like Darth Vader from the Star Wars films.
Some social media users call it worrying.
Others were stronger with their language.
"What in the name of sane Christianity have they created in the piazza in the Vatican," tweeted A. A. Michelangelo. Sane is a term that means something is based on good reason or good judgement.
A. A. Michelangelo described the creation as "horrific" - an adjective close in meaning to terrible or horrible.
Mary, Joseph, the three kings and the shepherds are traditional characters in Nativity scenes. In this one, they look like square game pieces. The animals sit low on the ground.
Every year, the Vatican uses a different nativity scene. It is usually given to the Vatican by towns or artists.
This year's scene was made by students and teachers in Castelli, an Italian town famous for ceramics. It was produced between 1965 and 1975.
Italians traditionally add a new character to represent a current event.
Past Vatican nativity scenes have included a broken boat representing the issues of refugees and a person visiting a prisoner in jail. Last year's Nativity Scene was made from around 650,0000 kilograms of beach sand.
The astronaut represents the moon landings of the late 1960s and early 1970s, says a description for visitors.
One person on social media published a picture showing the astronaut planting a Vatican flag on the moon. Another showed Darth Vader asking for directions to St. Peter's Square.
Among the scene's few supporters was American Lino Rulli, who appears on "The Catholic Guy", a weekday radio broadcast in Minnesota.
"I don't know what I love more: the spaceman or the guy from the Star Wars Cantina. I really want a small one for our home," he wrote on Twitter.
For others, the decision by the Vatican City's local government to use it at the end of 2020 was particularly troubling.
"With this global pandemic and everything else, the Christian people, or anyone for that matter, was expecting a sign of rebirth," said Alfredo Chiarelli. He has been selling religious items in the square for 30 years.
"It has confused and saddened a lot of people," he told Reuters.
I'm John Russell.
Philip Pullella reported on this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.
Words in This Story
character – n. a person who appears in a story, book, play, movie, or television show
piazza – n. an open public area in a town or city (especially in Italy) that is usually surrounded by buildings
shepherd – n. a person whose job is to take care of sheep — sometimes used figuratively
ceramics – n. things made out of hardened clay : ceramic objects
global – adj. involving the entire world
confuse – v. to make (something) difficult to understand