Mary, Joseph and … an astronaut? The Vatican Nativity Scene Mocked in 2020

(CNN) – Jesus, Mary and Joseph don’t normally appear next to astronauts or Darth Vader-esque figures, but the Vatican has upset some Catholics by bringing them together in the latest nativity scene.

Pope Francis inaugurated the scene on Friday, which features a number of life-size ceramic figures, but many people have expressed disapproval for its unusual appearance.

The Catholic Herald published an article calling the Nativity scene “comically awful.” The article, entitled “The Vatican’s Embarrassing SciFi Creche,” added that some “more excited people called it demonic, pagan, and idolatrous.”
On Twitter, Tim Stanley, historian and editor for the Catholic Herald, called the birth “absolutely terrifying.”
The futuristic figures have been criticized.

The futuristic figures have been criticized.

Gregorio Borgia / AP

Meanwhile, art historian Elizabeth Lev said in an interview with the Jesuit publication America Magazine that the scene had caused “a universal outpouring of ridicule.”

“The Catholic Church has an incredible tradition of beauty, and yet, after a year of trouble, we have set up something that will make people mock Jesus,” added Lev.

Every year the Vatican places a different nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square. It is usually a big draw for tourists.

This year’s sculptures are part of a collection created by students and teachers at an art school in Castelli, a city in the Italian region of Abruzzo known for its ceramics, from 1965 to 1975, Vatican News reports.
“The feast of the Nativity is a reminder that Jesus is our peace, our joy, our strength, our comfort,” Pope Francis said in a speech to those present at the inauguration on Friday.

“But to receive these gifts of grace, it is necessary to feel small, poor, and humble, like the figures in the Nativity.”

The nativity scene has received criticism from many Catholics.

The nativity scene has received criticism from many Catholics.

Grzegorz Galazka / Mondadori Portfolio / Getty Images

But not everyone was disappointed with this year’s scene.

Tommy Tighe, author of “The Catholic Hipster Handbook,” praised the display on Twitter.

“You can’t be like ‘a reason Catholicism rules is because it’s weird’ and then not like the Vatican Nativity scene, ESPECIALLY THE ASTRONAUT,” he wrote.

And Lino Rulli, host of The Catholic Guy Show on the radio, was even more exuberant.

“I don’t know what I love more: the spaceman or the man from the Star Wars Cantina,” tweeted Rulli. “I really want a little one for our house.”

However, it is not the first year that the Vatican has opted for an unconventional scene.

In 2018, the nativity scene was sculpted from more than 700 tons of sand to create the 16 meter wide and 5 meter high nativity scene, which covered 25 square meters.