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Parents lash out at priest who told children there's no Santa Claus

Parents in Santa Fe Springs in California have castigated their priest for telling children under 10 years during Mass that Santa Claus does not exist.

When one child asked who eats the milk and cookies left out for Santa, Fr Reuben Rocha told them that was the work of their parents.

"I believe they've taken some of the innocence out of her childhood, and I'm very upset,' said parent Rick Martin, whose daughter attends kindergarten.

"After she got home, I tried to very gently find out what she was thinking about Christmas, and she said she still believes in it. But she doesn't believe in Santa Claus, as an institution, anymore.'

The school acted quickly to mitigate Rocha's comments, said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which oversees the county's Catholic private schools.

Fr Rocha reportedly issued the written apology.

School Principal Margaret Alvarez phoned the parents of each student who attended the Mass, notified them of Rocha's comments and prepared them to answer questions their children might have when they got home, Tamberg said.

"There's a time and place for everything, and this was not the time or the place or the age group to be talking about the true meaning of Christmas, at least in terms that young children cannot understand,' Tamberg said.

"This was not anything planned or known about beforehand. (Rocha) doesn't have permission to tell kids of that age that information. It's not his job or his role, and I know he regrets it now,' Tamberg added.

Martin said teachers told him most of the students did not appear to be upset by Rocha's pronouncements. Some seemed frazzled, mostly because they couldn't quite comprehend what Rocha was trying to tell them.

"Now my daughter doesn't believe in Santa Claus. She sees him, and she knows it's a costume. What happens when we go to the mall this year? It'll just be a costume to her,' Martin added. "I've just been let down by this whole deal.'

Santa lovers lash out at priest (Pasadena Star-News 18/11/04)
Priest Apologizes after Saying 'No Santa' ( 19/11/04)

St Nicholas Centre

22 Nov 2004