Prominent Catholics Shred the Vatican for Its 'Embarrassing' Nativity Display


The Vatican unveiled its official 2020 Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square on Friday, and it has since been criticized as ugly and embarrassing.

The set came from a town in the Abruzzi region of Italy and is said to be influenced by ancient Greek, Sumerian and Egyptian art, according to National Catholic Register correspondent Edward Pentin.

The art pieces were made between 1965 and 1975 by teachers and students of the F.A. Grue art institute in Castelli, Italy, according to Vatican News, a news site of the church.

WSJ Reporter Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison, Employer Calls It a 'Disgraceful, Sham Conviction'

Bishop Lorenzo Leuzzi of the Italian Diocese of Teramo-Atri, which includes Castelli, praised the scene in a statement reported by Christianity Daily.

“We believe that this year’s experience of a Nativity scene donated by an Artistic High School is really a powerful summons for everyone to invest more in the training of the new generations both at the level of middle and high schools and for the university world,” the statement said.

However, the Vatican’s creche has been ridiculed for looking like a science fiction story or children’s toys, earning nicknames like “Mummified Mary” and “Weeble Jesus,” according to Breitbart News.

America magazine, a weekly published in the United States by the order of the Jesuits (which Pope Francis belongs to), headlined an unflattering article about the exhibit with, “Why is Darth Vader in the Vatican’s Nativity scene?”

The Catholic Herald, a monthly Catholic magazine based in London, headlined its critique with, “The Vatican’s Embarrassing SciFi Creche.”

Historian Tim Stanley, a contributing editor for the Catholic Herald, called the Nativity “absolutely terrifying” in a Twitter post.

Elizabeth Lev, an American art historian living and teaching in Rome, told Breitbart that the choice of artwork was a poor one.

“At the end of this extremely difficult year, people are looking for beauty, for something to elevate, inspire, and unite them, and the scene offered in Saint Peter’s Square gives them something else altogether,” she said.

WSJ Reporter Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison, Employer Calls It a 'Disgraceful, Sham Conviction'

“The mishappen figures in the Nativity scene lack all the grace, proportion, vulnerability, and luminosity that one looks for in the manger scene. The entire point of this holiday is the second person of the Holy Trinity taking human form, born as a baby of flesh and blood, and there is nothing particularly human about the forms we see before us.”

Lev added, “After a year of closed churches, I don’t think that ‘toilet paper Jesus’ is going to cut it.”

She said she was concerned that such a Nativity set is working against the goal of evangelization for the church, according to America magazine.

Do you think this Nativity scene is ugly?

“The problem is, there is a universal outpouring of mockery,” she said. “They’re making fun of the Holy Family. People are vying with each other to come up with the funnier name.

“The Catholic Church has an incredible tradition of beauty, and yet, after a year of difficulty, we’ve put up something that makes people mock Jesus.”

The Catholic News Agency covered the controversy with an article headlined: “‘It doesn’t embarrass us’: Art teacher defends Vatican’s much-maligned nativity scene.”

Marcello Mancini, a teacher at the art institute where the set was made, told CNA that he was sorry “that people don’t like it.”

“It is a Nativity scene that must be framed in the historical period in which it was produced,” he said.

The astronaut figure, he said, was added after the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

The Vatican has displayed a Nativity scene since the 1980s and has highlighted Italian artists and materials since 2012, according to America magazine.

Recent Nativity sets have included one made out of terracotta and one made out of sand, America reported.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

, , ,
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith