FaithWorld

Wikileaks founder Assange “man of the year” in Naples nativity creches

assange 1 (Photo: Figurine of Jullian Assange by Naples nativity creche creator Gennaro Di Virgilio, in Naples December 6, 2010/Ciro De Luca)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange may be alone in jail in London, but in the traditional Neapolitan Christmas creches he is in good company — with Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Assange, who is depicted holding his trusty lap top, was created by Gennaro Di Virgilio, who each year chooses at least one contemporary character to sculpt and place near the scenes of the traditional story of Jesus’ birth in a manger.

“I included him to poke a little fun at the world and have a good time,” said Di Virgilio, 29, whose family has been making nativity statuettes and ornate creches since 1830. “In a sense, Assange is the man of the year,” said Di Virgilio, whose tiny shop is one of many on a narrow Naples street named Via San Gregorio Armeno that specialized in Christmas statues, creches and trinkets all year.

There is only one copy of the Assange statuette, which costs 130 euros. Di Virgilio says he will make others on request. There are, however, multiple copies of statuettes of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that Italians can place in the manger with the Holy Family, the wise men, the ox and the sheep.

This year, the southern city’s garbage crisis has become a recurring theme among the artists and craftsmen along the street, which is barely three meters wide. And so it came to pass that the Madonna, St. Joseph and even the baby Jesus wear face masks to protect themselves from the stench of the uncollected garbage in Naples.

Read the full story here.

assange 2 (Photo: A Neapolitan Christmas creche with the Madonna and baby Jesus wearing face masks against garbage strike stench  in Naples, December 6, 2010/Ciro De Luca)

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H1N1 flu stops Italians kissing saint’s blood

san-gennaroFear of H1N1 flu will stop devout Neapolitan Catholics from performing the time-honoured ritual of kissing the blood of their patron Saint Gennaro when the city’s annual festival begins later this month.

The decision to forbid kissing of the glass phial containing the saint’s blood was taken reluctantly by ecclesiastical and city authorities on Monday, and has brought protests from local politicians. In one of Italy’s best-known festivals, Saint Gennaro’s dried blood is said to liquefy twice a year, 17 centuries after his death. Some Neapolitans fear disaster may strike the city if the “miracle” does not occur.

The phial will be put on display in the city’s cathedral for a week from Sept. 19 and the faithful will be allowed to touch it only with their foreheads. Last week, a 51-year-old man became Italy’s first fatal victim of the H1N1 flu virus, popularly known as swine flu, when he died in a Naples hospital.