VATICAN CITY – St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican has hosted a number of unorthodox Nativity scenes over the years, but this season’s entry appears to be coming from space.
The futuristic ceramics nursery – featuring an astronaut and character reminiscent of Star Wars’ Darth Vader – has received so many horrible reviews that if it had been a Broadway play, it would likely have closed on opening night.
Some social media users – perhaps in keeping with the prevailing mood of 2020 – called it troubling or unsure.
Others were more devastating.
“What in the name of a healthy Christianity have they created in the piazza in the Vatican,” tweeted AA Michelangelo. “… Words (are) inadequate for this gruesome creation that must have come from the planet Zog”.
Mary, Joseph, the three kings and the shepherds look like cubic chess figures and the animals are stocky and square.
The Vatican uses a different nativity scene every year, usually donated by cities or artists.
This year’s modernist, larger-than-life display, which has appeared in several locations, was created between 1965 and 1975 by students and teachers in Castelli, an Italian town known for its ceramics.
Italians traditionally add a new character to represent a current event.
Previous Vatican Nativity scenes depicted a broken boat representing the plight of refugees and a person visiting a prisoner in a prison cell, symbolizing charity. Last year sculptures were made from 720 tons of beach sand.
According to a description for visitors, the astronaut represents the moon landings of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
One person on social media responded by posting a photo of that figure planting a Vatican flag on the moon. Another showed Darth Vader asking for directions to St. Peter’s Square.
One of the few unqualified fans of the scene was American Lino Rulli, who hosts “The Catholic Guy,” a weekday radio show in Minnesota. “I don’t know what I love more: the spaceman or the man from the Star Wars Cantina. I really want a little one for our house, ”he tweeted.
For others closer to home, the decision of the Vatican City’s de facto municipal government to use it all year in the end of 2020 was particularly annoying.
“With this global pandemic and everything else, the Christian people, or whoever, expected a sign of rebirth,” said Alfredo Chiarelli, 65, who has been selling religious items in the square for 30 years.
“It has confused and saddened many people,” he told Reuters.