Monday the 17th of December

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"By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach 'to the ends of the earth'" (Acts 1:8) Pope Francis, Message for World Communications Day, 2014

Church criticises ‘Grinch-like’ shopping centre for refusal to display nativity scene

The Catholic Church has criticised a “Grinch-like” shopping centre after it refused to stage a nativity scene.

Management at the Thistles Shopping Centre in Stirling declined a request from The Legion of Mary association to display the traditional Christian scene, as they did not want customers ‘subjected to individual organisation’s beliefs’.

However, the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh, which Stirling is a part of, accused the Thistles of being “Grinch-like” and requested that they reconsider their decision to “ban the Christmas crib”.

“At this time of year Christmas cribs grace many public squares all across the British Isles, bringing joy to nearly all who encounter them, regardless of their religion, and so it seems just a wee bit, well, Grinch-like for the Thistles Shopping Centre to ban the Christmas crib and, in the true spirit of Christmas, we would certainly ask them to reconsider their decision,” a spokesperson for the archdiocese told The Catholic Universe.

Meanwhile, a Facebook group, titled ‘Bring the Nativity Scene back to The Thistles, Stirling’, pointed out the hypocrisy displayed by the shopping centre bosses who, despite claiming that they ‘pride themselves on religious neutrality’, seem to have no problem ‘heavily promoting CHRISTmas for commercial gain’.

In fact, visitors to the Thistles’ website are welcomed with a giant, gaudy rolling banner advertising ‘Santa Claus is coming to Toy Town’, ‘Christmas Shopping at Thistles’ and ‘Come on in, Christmas Market’.

The Facebook group also revealed that management even refused to reconsider their decision when Stephen Kerr, MP for Stirling, contacted them regarding the refusal.

Margaret Patterson, a member of The Legion of Mary association, had complained to Mr Kerr after the Thistles refused permission for the setting up of a nativity scene. However, after getting in touch with the Thistles, Mr Kerr revealed that the shopping centre would not budge on their initial decision.

The Thistle’s told Mr Kerr: ‘Mrs Patterson made a request in the correct manner to have a mall space for her to present a display for The Legion of Mary association.

‘The request was not successful for two reasons being one that we do not have any available space left for commercial activities as all allocated space has been previously booked out some months in advance due to commercial activity around Christmas. Also Thistles shopping centre prides itself on being religiously and politically neutral in its behaviour within the local community and with this in mind we do not feel it would be right to agree to host this type of promotion within a shopping centre where our customers come to enjoy a leisure activity without being subjected to individual organisation’s beliefs.

‘We will not be willing to reconsider the application any further and hope that this final decision is accepted.’

Sharing the Thistles’ response with Mrs Patterson, Mr Kerr wrote: ‘I know that this is not the response you wanted but this decision is solely down to the Thistles Shopping Centre. I wish you and the Legion of Mary the very best with your future endeavours.’