Pro-life and family campaigners in Italy have hit out at a “dangerous and blasphemous” church nativity scene featuring two mothers of the baby Jesus instead of Mary and Joseph figurines.
An online petition calling on the bishop in the province of Avellino to intervene has attracted more than 21,000 signatures.
It claimed the scene contradicted the Catholic Church’s teachings about the family and legitimised same-sex parenting and surrogacy.
But the priest at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, in the Avellino hamlet of Capocastello di Mercogliano, east of Naples, has defended its depiction of Jesus’s birth.
“I wanted to show with this scene that families are no longer just the traditional ones,” Father Vitaliano Della Sala said.
“In our parishes, we see more and more children from the new types of families that exist and are part of our society, children of separated and divorced people, gay couples, single people, young mothers.”
Father Della Sala, who is known in Italy for expressing sympathy for LGBT and left-wing causes, has insisted his attitude is similar to that of Pope Francis, who in a landmark ruling this week, allowed priests to bless same-sex couples.
However, Senator Maurizio Gasparri, from the co-ruling Forza Italia party, said the LGBT creche “offends all those who always had respect and devotion for the Holy Family”.
And the Pro-Vita & Famiglia (Pro-Life and Family) group called it “dangerous, as well as shameful and blasphemous”.
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Nativity scenes are popular in the mostly Catholic country.
But they have been increasingly caught up in culture wars as society becomes more secular and multi-cultural.