The display’s creator cited Pope Francis allowing priests to bless same-sex couples in his defense of the controversial scene © Catholic group Pro-Vita e Famiglia

Tens of thousands of Italians have called on Catholic authorities to condemn a Christmas nativity scene featuring the baby Jesus with two mothers instead of the traditional Mary and Joseph at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in the province of Avellino after a pro-life organization called attention to the controversial display on Friday.

Father Vitaliano Della Sala, the priest behind the provocative installation, defended it as a representation of his church’s growing diversity.

“I wanted to show with this scene that families are no longer just the traditional ones,” he told Reuters on Saturday, explaining, “In our parishes, we se more and more children from the new types of families that exist and are part of our society, children of separated and divorced people, gay couples, single people, young mothers.”

The priest, known for his preoccupation liberal issues, cited Pope Francis’ landmark decision last week allowing priests to bless same-sex couples, suggesting his own attitudes aligned with those of the Catholic leader.

Vatican issues conditional approval for gay blessings Vatican issues conditional approval for gay blessings

The creche came under fire on Friday from Catholic group Pro-Vita e Famiglia (Pro-Life and Family), which accused Father Della Sala and his church of trying to “‘sanctify’ illegal practices in Italy, such as the sale of gametes and the buying and selling of children” in a post on its website.

The organization launched a petition that had gathered over 23,000 signatures as of Sunday urging the bishop of Avellino, Monsignor Arturo Aiello, to intervene against the “dangerous, as well as shameful and blasphemous” Christmas display.

In response to its petition, Pro-Vita’s headquarters was defaced by street artist Laika with a mural that also depicted two women with a baby Jesus, which the artist helpfully labeled “nativity” in lieu of the usual manger, angels, and other context clues found in traditional depictions of the holy birth.

British priests rebel over Vatican gay blessings British priests rebel over Vatican gay blessings

Having children via surrogacy is illegal in Italy, and a measure that would criminalize traveling abroad to obtain a child by surrogate is currently under consideration in parliament.

On Monday, the Vatican declared that Roman Catholic priests could issue blessings to same-sex couples so long as they were not given in the context of religious rituals or liturgies. While the church stressed it continues to define marriage as between one man and one woman, the move has nevertheless been perceived as a major upheaval in Catholic dogma, triggering rebellions among clergy groups from Britain to Nigeria. (RT)