The Vatican unveiled this year's nativity scene and the Christmas tree at St. Peter's Square over the weekend much to the amusement of social media users. The photos of the nativity scene went viral on Twitter and quickly received backlash albeit in humorous manner.
Every year the Vatican puts up a different nativity scene that is often made by artists in Italian towns. This year, it featured life-sized cylindrical, ceramic statues that were a part of a 52-piece collection. The statues were made between 1965 and 1975 by students and teachers of the F.A. Grue Art Institute in the Italian town of Castelli, which is popular for ceramics.
The statues surrounding Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus included a bagpiper, a shepherdess who held a jug and also an astronaut that meant to represent scientific achievements. Ahead of the unveiling, Pope Francis said that the Christmas tree and the nativity scene helped "create the Christmas atmosphere conducive to living with faith the mystery of the Nativity of the Redeemer."
"In the Nativity, everything speaks to us of 'good' poverty, of evangelical poverty, which makes us blessed: contemplating the Holy Family and the various characters, we are attracted by their disarming humility. ... This Christmas too, in the midst of the suffering of the pandemic, Jesus, small and helpless, is the 'sign' that God gives to the world," the Pope said.
However, not many social media users were convinced with the Pope's outlook towards the nativity scene. One Twitter even asked whether the Pope was "just trolling Catholic Christianity?" Other users of the micro-blogging website suggested that the nativity scene should be taken down.
American television personality Rachel Campos-Duffy called the nativity scene "monstrosity" that resembled like "ugly robot aliens."
"This monstrosity is the Vatican's nativity scene," Campos-Duffy tweeted. "Nothing like ugly robot space aliens to undermine the beauty & humanity of the Holy Family at Christmas time, during a pandemic when we need our timeless Church traditions more than ever. Thanks, Pope Francis!"
Meanwhile, according to Vatican News, Pope Francis wrote a letter in 2019 that it was "customary to add many symbolic figures to our nativity scenes." He explained that adults and children "love to add" figures to the nativity scene that do not have a connection with the Gospel accounts. "Yet, each in its own way, these fanciful additions show that in the new world inaugurated by Jesus there is room for whatever is truly human and for all God's creatures," he said.