(ANSA) - Opposition parties and Catholics expressed outrage Wednesday at two Italian MPs who placed gay couples in the Lower House Nativity scene.
Bruno Mellano and Donatella Poretti of the tiny Rose in the Fist party put the dolls - two pairs of embracing Barbies and Kens - in the crib in support of the rights of same-sex and unwed couples in Italy.
The centre-left government, which the Rose in the Fist is part of, has said it will soon present draft legislation aimed at giving rights to unwed couples, including gay ones. But the issue of same-sex unions is not high up on Italy's political agenda. Parliament staff quickly removed the dolls, but the stunt sparked a major furore all the same.
"It is a disfigurement of the religious beliefs of the majority of the Italian people," said Luca Volonté, the House whip for the centre-right Catholic UDC party."It is the umpteenth act offending the Catholic religion and confirmation of the violent secularism of some parts of the governing alliance".
Antonio Mazzocchi of the rightist National Alliance was among those who called on House Speaker Fausto Bertinotti to take disciplinary action against Mellano and Poretti. "It is a serious act of propaganda and vulgarity that offends this symbol of Christianity and the traditional family," Mazzocchi said. Carolina Lussana of the devolutionist Northern League accused the Rose in the Fist of not "respecting the family, not even the Holy Family".
Monsignor Giovanni Lajolo, the governor of the Vatican City, said that the gesture "speaks for itself"."There is no need for us to comment," Lajolo added. "Our sentiment is commiseration for them, because they are unable to understand what real values are".
Even parts of the centre left expressed dismay.
"Today's senseless provocation in the House crib pains us first as citizens and then as Catholics," said Family Minister Rosy Bindi of the Daisy Party.
"Even legitimate political battles should respect the values of the overwhelming majority of the public". Rosalba Cesini, an MP with Italian Communist party which supports legislation for same-sex unions and rights for unwed couples, feared the stunt may backfire.
"As well as trivializing the issue, the raid on the House nativity scene is a serious political mistake," Cesini commented.
"In fact, mixing the holy and the secular is the same mistake made by those opposed to granting legal recognition to unwed couples, regardless of their sexual orientation".
House Speaker Bertinotti criticised the move too."I'm in favour of the recognition of rights for everyone, but there is no reason to trigger senseless rows about these issues with unpleasant shortcuts," he said.
It is not the first time that an Italian Nativity scene has raised eyebrows.
Last week Bologna city council's Nativity scene was at the centre of a heated row following the inclusion of a naked figurine representing a famous dead Italian porno star - Moana Pozzi.
Last year, the Tuscan seaside town of Viareggio was inundated with protests after its crib featured a six-metre tall sculpture of Mary in high heels and a short skirt.