Mary, Joseph and… an astronaut? The Vatican’s unconventional nativity scene mocked

Jesus, Mary and Joseph don’t normally appear alongside astronauts or Darth Vader-like figures, but the Vatican has upset some Catholics by bringing them together in its latest nativity scene.

Pope Francis inaugurated the display last week, which features a number of life-sized ceramic figures, made by students and teachers at an art school in Castelli, a town in Italy’s Abruzzo region.

The Catholic Herald ran an article labeling the nativity “comically awful.” Some “more excitable people called it demonic, pagan and idolatrous” and even “absolutely terrifying.”

Art historian Elizabeth Lev said the scene had caused “a universal outpouring of mockery,” adding, “The Catholic Church has an incredible tradition of beauty, and yet, after a year of difficulty, we’ve put up something that makes people mock Jesus.”

Each year, the Vatican puts up a different nativity scene in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome. It’s usually a major draw for tourists.

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