Santa Claus
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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Noto in Sicily released a public apology Friday after a bishop told school children that Santa Claus wasn't real.

Bishop Antonio Stagliano was trying to explain the true meaning of Christmas and the story of Saint Nicholas, a bishop who gave gifts to the poor and was persecuted by a Roman emperor, said the Rev Alessandro Paolino, the communications director for the diocese of Noto.

The bishop's comments went viral, and the Diocese of Noto posted an apology on its Facebook page afterward, written by Stagliano's press secretary Father Paolini. "First of all, on behalf of the bishop, I express my sorrow for this declaration, which has created disappointment in the little ones, and want to specify that Monsignor Stagliano's intentions were quite different," Paolino wrote on the diocesan page.

"We certainly must not demolish the imagination of children but draw good examples from it that are positive for life," he continued. "So Santa Claus is an effective image to convey the importance of giving, generosity, sharing. But when this image loses its meaning, you see Santa Claus aka consumerism, the desire to own, buy, buy and buy again, then you have to revalue it by giving it a new meaning."

The bishop was speaking during an event held on the feast day of Saint Nicholas. He said that Saint Nicholas is considered as the figure of giving and can be referred to as Santa Claus who is widely known for his generosity. While answering a question regarding the topic, he stunned listeners by telling them that Father Christmas was a hoax.

Italian news reports quoted Stagliano saying that Santa doesn't exist during the religious festival and that Coca-Cola created his red costume for advertisement and publicity purposes. Few welcomed the bishop's attempt to focus on the meaning of Christmas for Catholics. In contrast, others blamed Stagliano for interfering with family traditions and crushing the spirits of children for the upcoming celebration, whose previous years were affected by the pandemic.

Stagliano also recalled the comments in an interview with La Repubblica. He explained that the topic during the discussion was the need to distinguish what is real from what is not. He insisted that he didn't tell the children that Santa Claus doesn't exist. He also stated that consumer culture had hidden the real meaning of the festival, which was a message of giving, illustrated by the birth of the baby Jesus, who was born to serve all humanity.

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