Nativity sceneNAThe controversial nativity scene in St Anne’s church in Potenza

Franco Corbo, the priest at St Anne’s church in the southern city of Potenza in Basilicata, has created a nativity scene which has caused outrage with local inhabitants.

Mr Corbo has depicted the traditional nativity scene with Mary wearing a veil and the figures of Joseph and the shepherds are all wearing traditional Muslim clothing.

The walls of the traditional manger have been daubed with various slogans such as “Foreigners out”.

The scene is also split down the middle and divided into “Eastern” and “Western” sides.

The nativity scene has been seen as an act of provocation by local worshippers, according to local media reports.

However the priest had defended his decision, saying that he wanted to send a message saying ‘no’ to too many walls, either literally or symbolically, that prevented integration.

He said: “Just think about the wall built by Israel to keep Palestinians lock in true enclaves.

“It’s my desire to remind people that religion can and should be an instrument of dialogue.

“All other faiths and ethnicities have been destroyed or reduced to misery by the selfishness of Western society.”

Asked if he was serious, he replied: “I’m very serious.”

He also stated: “Islam, like all religions, is synonymous with peace and brotherhood.”

He added that Islamic State (ISIS) had nothing to do with the Islamic religion and that suicide bombers and terrorists had nothing to do with the religion.

Mr Corbo also attacked those who had spoken out about his depiction of the birth of Jesus.

He stated: “There have been may disputes. But this only depends on people’s small minds and a form of fundamentalism.”

It is not the first time Mr Corbo has come under fire for controversial nativity scenes and he has several as part of a collection.

Other interpretations of the nativity scene include one which depicts aborigines and one from Albania.