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A nativity scene in the Franciscan monastery of the central Italian municipality of Greccio: According to Meloni's party, nativity scenes in schools are in danger

Photo: Christoph Sator / dpa

The party of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni wants to protect Christmas and other Christian initiatives at schools and universities by law. The right-wing party Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) introduced a bill in parliament to prevent Christmas celebrations from being renamed "winter festivals," the Adnkronos news agency reported. It is also intended to secure the installation of nativity scenes.

Right-wing Senator Lavinia Mennuni cited "unacceptable and embarrassing decisions by some school boards" in recent years. Out of supposed consideration for believers of other religions, the nature of the Christian Christmas is being changed, according to the MP. She also spoke of a special relationship between Christmas and Italy's "national identity". According to their ideas, similar regulations should also apply to Easter.

Sharp criticism from the opposition

The Fratelli d'Italia – which emerged from the post-fascist movement – is the largest party of the right-wing three-party coalition that has governed Italy since October last year. It was not initially known when the bill would be discussed in parliament. There was no comment from Meloni herself on Wednesday. Criticism and ridicule came from the ranks of the opposition, and the plans were described as "ridiculous".

The secretary of the Più Europa (More Europe) party, Riccardo Magi, called the plan hypocritical and "almost blasphemous" in view of the government's strict line on rescuing migrants at sea. He also scoffed at the fact that the Holy Family under Meloni's government would probably end up in a home for asylum seekers, the newspaper La Repubblica reported. Green MP Luana Zanella said: "They want to ban everything they don't like."

School staff associations also criticized the bill. "The traditions of the country must certainly be taken into account, but to impose them by law is out of place," Antonello Giannelli, president of the national association of school principals Anp, told the Ansa news agency.