The Vatican took a unique direction for its annual nativity scene and some people are worried it’s sending the wrong message.
Unveiled early this month in St Peter’s Square, the assemblage was designed by artist Antonio Cantone and was donated by Benedictine monks from southern Italy. It’s supposed to represent Jesus’ “corporal works of mercy,” but it features a naked, muscular man being given a sheet by a bystander.
While images of the unclothed figure were reportedly refused by Facebook for being too sexually suggestive, Canton insists the man represents the mercy of “clothing the naked.”
“It is not a campy nativity,” he says. “It is particular and makes you think. It leaves no one indifferent; there are provocations.”
Responses on social media have been mixed: Some felt the nude figure was inappropriate, while others complained the whole tableau—which featured a bombed-out church and a corpse—was too apocalyptic for a nativity
I don’t care. Only people in Nativity should be Holy Family—period. None of the displays should be there. Nativity is about His Birth…nothing else.
— Catherine Siena (@1catherinesiena) December 22, 2017
#Nativity Scene at the Vatican! The "Seven Corporal Works of Mercy" have been added, but it looks like mockery! Bombed-out church, falling star, naked man, dead corpse too? Is this Christmas or the Apocalypse? https://t.co/56e2THA324#Catholic #CatholicChurch in trouble. pic.twitter.com/F2m6tvZZHn
— EA Bucchianeri (@EABucchianeri) December 13, 2017
An Asian child looks out at this year’s Vatican Nativity scene featuring a homoerotic figure. The crèche, meant to portray the 7 corporal acts of mercy, was made in Montevergine, a town famous for its close links with Italy’s LGBT community. The scene has outraged many Catholics. pic.twitter.com/uXIHRX9mgf
— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) December 22, 2017
Omg if that's really the Vatican nativity, I was right and this pope is the anti christ.
— Kim Donadio (@kim_donadio) December 16, 2017
The Catholic blog LifeSite News claims Montevergine, where the figures were made, has close links with Italy’s LGBT community: According to legend, Our Lady of Montevergine saved two gay men from death in 1256. The “procession of the Femminielli” is held every year there to commemorate their rescue. (Femminielli is a Neapolitan term referring to gay men with a feminine gender expression.)
Antonello Sannino, the president of Arcigay Naples, told LifeSite “the presence of the Vatican Nativity Scene for us is a reason to be even happier this year. For the homosexual and transsexual community in Naples, it is an important symbol of inclusion and integration.”