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Religion Notes

Catholic Priest Who Scoffed at Santa Takes an Early Christmas Vacation

December 20, 1986|Compiled from, wire and staff reports

A Roman Catholic priest who enraged many parents when he told his young students that there is no Santa Claus has taken a leave of absence, church officials in Woodbridge, N.J., said.

The pastor of St. John Vianney Church told parishioners at services this week that Father Romano Ferraro is on indefinite leave for what he called "personal and parochial" reasons.

Father Francis Sergel also apologized for Ferraro's remarks. "A prayerful time . . . has turned into a time of anguish, confusion, disappointment and even anger for many of you," the pastor said.

Ferraro spoke Dec. 6 at two Masses for religious instruction students in the first through sixth grades, telling the story of St. Nicholas, the 4th-Century bishop whose gifts to the poor inspired the Santa Claus legend.

But Ferraro also said that St. Nicholas was dead and that there is no Santa Claus, no Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and no North Pole toy workshop. Answering a child's question, the priest said that parents lie when they tell Santa Claus stories.

The sermons upset many parents and left the students bewildered, parishioners said. Church officials blamed the incident on Ferraro's zeal for teaching the children the true meaning of Christmas.

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