The Catholic Church has welcomed a shopping centre’s decision to overturn its self-imposed ban on displaying a nativity scene.
Thistles Shopping Centre in Stirling backtracked on its initial decision after a group of protestors staged a living nativity in the premises and spoke to Christmas shoppers about Thistles’ controversial ruling.
Thistles was recently branded “Grinch-like” by the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh after it 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’. Management at the shopping centre even refused to reconsider the decision when Stephen Kerr, MP for Stirling, contacted them on behalf of Margaret Patterson, a member of The Legion of Mary association.
However, they have now dropped the ban and invited The Legion of Mary to set up a Nativity scene.
In a statement, Thistles said: ‘We’ve listened carefully to everyone who contacted us about the installation and have decided to reverse our original decision.
‘We have offered Mrs Patterson the opportunity to host a nativity scene at the centre this Sunday in line with her original request and we are delighted that she has accepted.’
Their change of heart comes following a protest by Sancta Familia Media, which saw John Mallon, 27, and Elena Feick, 30, dressed as Joseph and Mary, with the child Jesus, walking around Thistles, interacting with customers and pointing out the shopping centre’s stance on the nativity scene.
“We were really shocked and saddened to hear of the cold hearted refusal to a request to host a crib at the Thistles Shopping Centre in Stirling,” Mr Mallon told The Catholic Universe. “So after a chat with a good friend we decided Sancta Familia Media could do something.”
Mr Mallon obtained the help of his friend Ms Feick, who played Mary, and his cousins Brian Timmons and Thomas Mallon, who filmed them engaging with shoppers.
“We had tried to get a real baby but had little time so borrowed a baby doll which my mammy helped wrapped the night before in swaddling clothes,” Mr Mallon explained.
“Shoppers loved it and were all happy and smiling! They were equally shocked to learn there was no crib and hoped to see one.
“Good old St Nick even gave us a chuckle and a wave! We were in 10 minutes or so and had to leave as security asked us to stop filming, so we walked around a little more before leaving.”
The group posted the video on the Sancta Familia Media page and the Facebook page of his parish, Holy Family Mossend.
“It quickly went viral amassing over 80,000 hits in over a day!” Mr Mallon said.
“We are so pleased that by responding with a little tongue in cheek humour the centre has seen sense. Everyone is so serious these days. The hallmark of the PC culture is a lack of humour so we brought colour and joy with a little self-deprecation.
“We hope the presence of the Christ child in the shop will shine a light on the darkness of consumerism at this time of year where people are pressured into spending too much or feel more alone. We hope the fact that the new born Emmanuel will bring comfort to those who feel this way and let them realise that God is truly with us this Christmas. It’s a Christmas Miracle,” Mr Mallon added.
The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Leo Cushley, welcomed Thistles reconsideration, tweeting: ‘Pleased to hear that the Thistles Shopping Centre in Stirling has lifted its ban on the Christmas crib. The centre’s management should be commended for their generosity and inclusivity in responding to the general public in such a fashion.’
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh told The Catholic Universe: “The management of the Thistles Centre, along with owners Standard Life Investments, are to be commended and congratulated for listening to the general public and responding with such generosity and inclusivity, recognising that contemporary Scotland should be a place that both respects and upholds religious liberty in the public square – we wish the management, staff, and shoppers at Thistles a very happy and very peaceful Christmas indeed.”
Mr Kerr, MP for Sterling, also welcomed the move.
“I am delighted to hear that some common sense has been applied and that the Thistles Centre have the ability to acknowledge when they got it wrong. Changes to their policy should be made so this does not happen again. Everyone who has raised this with me thought it was pretty daft to prevent a nativity scene being displayed at Christmas and a case of ‘political correctness gone mad’!”
Picture: John Mallon and Elena Feick dressed as Joseph and Mary with the child Jesus outside Thistles Shopping Centre, Stirling. (Sancta Familia Media).