The Italian Almanac

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Christmas recital

Italian News - December 15

The culprit is a carol. Parents of pupils at the Casa del Bosco nursery school in the multi-ethnic Oltrisarco district of Bolzano have discovered that at this year’s Christmas concert, the youngsters will not be permitted to sing “Tu scendi dalle stelle” (From Starry Skies Thou Comest). Teachers decided to sacrifice the traditional carol about the baby Jesus on the altar of multiculturalismand are thought to have told the children, who then informed their parents about the change in the programme. The upshot is that all heaven has broken loose, so to speak.

For the mayor, Luigi Spagnolli, it is “a complete nonsense”.Giovanni Benussi from the House of Freedoms went so far as to call it “absurd and aberrant”. For National Alliance it is “incomprehensible and misleading”while the Union für Sudtirol points out that “tolerance does not mean giving up our customs”. Indeed the local imam himself, Breigeche Abulkeheir, said in an interview that “the figure of Jesus is holy for those who believe in the Koran, too”. It only took the controversy a couple of hours to spill over into other parts of Italy.

Alessandra Mussolini, the Social Action MEP, calls the Bolzano schoolteachers’ initiative “wiping out all reference to our Christian roots”. Finally, former junior minister Alfredo Mantovano announced he would submit a question to the minister of Education asking “the government to clarify whether actions like those at the nursery school in Bolzano are, apart from being pathetic, in compliance with the laws of the state”.

Faced with this reaction, the head teacher at Casa del Bosco started to back-pedal.“I don’t understand how this incredible fuss started”, sighs Gianfranco Cornella. The head teacher looks embarrassed. He really did not expect such a violent backlash.“Children from different cultures get on happily in our schools. I’d go further: coexistence and mutual respect help them to develop the mental openness that those who are fuelling the controversy perhaps lack”.

Mr Cornella takes no stance on the final programme of the Christmas concert, which will be held out of doors with other schools. “There will be three Christmas carols”, he explains, “but I can’t remember which”. But the cross-party front formed by the champions of Christmas with all the trimmings has had an impact. Mr Cornella is forced to concede, “I don’t know about the reference to baby Jesus but the children will certainly be singing Silent Night”.