The 2017 Nativity scene at the Vatican has caused a stir over a nude statue that critics have called too sexy and homoerotic.
The scene includes depictions of the seven corporal works of mercy, including ‘clothing the naked’, Pink News has reported.
Gay users of social media have expressed admiration for the statue’s physique.
“Looks to me like an excuse to openly flaunt homoerotica!” tweeted one person.
Some conservatives have suggested the scene is the work of gay activists.
Catholic anti-LGBTI website LifeSiteNews is concerned that the sexy statue is a gay conspiracy to undermine the church.
The statues were made in the Italian city of Montevergine, which the website said “has close links with Italy’s LGBT community”.
“The abbey shrine is the annual destination of a sort of sacred and profane ‘ancestral gay pride’ pilgrimage which, according to one LGBT activist, in recent years has gained the ‘active, political participation of the LGBT community’,” it said.
Catholic Family News called the Nativity “obscene”.
Pope Francis explained the scene, saying, “This year’s Nativity scene, executed in the typical style of Neapolitan art, is inspired by the works of mercy.
“They remind us that the Lord has told us: ‘Whatever you wish men to do to you, you also do to them’ (Mt 7.12).
“The crib is the suggestive place where we contemplate Jesus Who, taking upon Himself the miseries of man, invites us to do likewise, through acts of mercy.”
Designer Antonio Cantone defended the Nativity.
“It is not a campy nativity; it is particular and makes you think… It leaves no one indifferent; there are provocations,” he said.
Adding to the stir around the Nativity, a topless feminist activist tried to steal the baby Jesus figure from the scene on Christmas day.