A Catholic priest has decided not to put up a traditional Nativity display in Italy for fear of offending Muslims and atheists. Fr. Sante Bragge said the display of a crib in the local cemetery could offend others.
A Catholic priest in Italy has declined to put up a traditional Nativity display in the municipal cemetery because he does not want to risk offending Muslims, Indians, and atheists.
Fr. Sante Bragge said, “A crib positioned within sight of them could be seen as a lack of respect for followers of other faiths, hurt the sensibilities of Muslims, as well as Indians and even atheists… it would be a mess.”
The scene is customarily erected in a spot that is adjacent to Muslim graves.
The decision was intended to avoid controversy, but instead it has caused it. A priest who used to serve at the cemetery described the decision as “weakness.” Fr. Oreste Mori said of the decision, “We cannot renounce our culture and traditions. That would be an unpardonable weakness. I am, for the time being at least, in Italy, not Saudi Arabia.”
Several town officials have also been working to get the display put out.
Over the past several years, atheists have become more vocal, particularly in the U.S. where the law prohibits religious discrimination and government endorsement of religion. Atheists have exploited this law to prevent Christians from erecting displays, or to erect their own competing displays, often with sacrilegious messages.
At the same time, the Muslim population around the world is surging as refugees continue to settle in the USA and Europe. Italy now has a population of 1.6 million Muslims.
While Fr. Braggie’s intention is understandable, our faith is not something to be hidden. And the presence of a Christian display at a cemetery should not offend people any more than seeing a cross, or the Star of David, or an Islamic crescent, or some other symbol of a different faith. We recognize we live in a world with many religions. Insisting we hide our religion or allowing ourselves to be offended by everything is absurd.
Freedom means letting others do things you don’t like. Muslims celebrate Ramadan and Eid, and nobody stops them. Atheists celebrate being atheists, and nobody stops them either. Perhaps Christians ought to be allowed to celebrate their faith again?