A bishop in Sicily has sparked a debate about Father Christmas - or Santa Claus, as it is known in many countries- by criticizing the Christmas consumer frenzy.
"Father Christmas does not exist, and Coca Cola - but not only - uses his image to present itself as the bearer of good values," the Bishop of Noto, Antonio Stagliano, had said in front of children on St Nicholas Day, according to Italian media reports.
St Nicholas of Myra, whose feast day is 6 December, is often considered the original model for the Santa Claus/Father Christmas figure in European tradition.
In many parts of Europe children receive presents on 6 December, believed to be from St Nicholas. In the Anglo-Saxon world, these gifts are given later, on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (December 24-25).
Stagliano said Nicholas was a saint who brought gifts to the poor, not presents. "In the Anglo-Saxon tradition, he became Father Christmas, but certainly not the Father Christmas created by Coca Cola."
Joy of Christmas
Since he made the comments, parents and the media discussed whether the clergyman had taken away the joy of Christmas and presents from the children.
On Saturday, the diocese apologized: It had not been the intention to cause such a media frenzy or to disappoint children. But the celebration was "increasingly consumerist, de-Christianized and subject to the logic of the market."