Pope appears to snub 'Darth Vader' nativity

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Pope Francis does not appear to think that the force is strong with a space-age nativity scene in St Peter's Square featuring an astronaut and a character reminiscent of Stars Wars villain Darth Vader.

The pontiff on Sunday (December 20) twice urged visitors to check out an exhibition of traditional nativity scenes on the fringes of the square, but made no mention of the space-age ceramic creche.

"Consumerism has kidnapped Christmas" he said, adding that there is no consumerism in the manger in Bethlehem.

"What is there," he said, "is reality, poverty, and love".

The Vatican uses a different nativity scene each year, chosen by its de facto municipal government and usually donated by towns or artists.

But this year's offering has received scathing views in the media and from visitors to the square who have at best expressed puzzlement, and at worst, contempt.