Priest bans pagan Santa from his church

A Belgian priest has demanded that his parish reprint posters advertising a Christmas carol concert because they include a picture of Santa Claus.

Priest Daniel Beernaert, who's 68, told Gazet van Antwerpen: "I'll never welcome Santa Claus in my church. He is a pagan symbol."

Father Daniel, of Saint Martin's Church in Koekelare, added: "At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ and not Santa Claus.

"The organisers even wanted a Santa Claus to walk around in the church during the concert.

"Santa Claus is a commercial symbol that has nothing to do with Christmas. If people want to join it, it's all right, but not in my church."

Peter Rossel, a spokesman for the Bishop of Bruges, backed the priest he said: "We understand the frustration of Daniel Beernaert.

"Some children are already thinking at Christmas we celebrate Santa Claus instead of the birth of Christ. And the priest is not alone. We also get telephone calls from frustrated believers who think likewise."