With England and France feuding, Russia mobilising and Brussels incurring the wrath of Rome, it all feels a bit 1530 in Europe at the moment. The latest Renaissance throwback has been the octogenarian Pope Francis coming out swinging against the European Union for its efforts to ban the word 'Christmas' among Brussels bureaucrats.
Hand-wringing pen-pushers have told their fellow Eurocrats to swap it instead to 'holiday period' as it could be offensive to non-Christians, as part of a guide on 'inclusive communication.' The document ordered staff to substitute saying 'Christmas time can be stressful' for 'holiday times can be stressful.' Naturally such talk did not go down well in the Vatican where Cardinal Pietro Parolin accused the EU of trying to 'cancel our roots.'
Other EU suggestions include replacing Christian names such as Mary and John with 'international' names such as Malika and Julio in generic examples and using the word 'man-made' in place of 'human-induced.' Mr S would say 'Lord, give me strength' but such traditional patriarchal expressions of exasperation might offend the right-on Eurocrat brigade...
Fortunately though – in enjoyably punchy language reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets – Francis this weekend attacked the supranational entity in the strongest possible terms. The Holy Father declared the Brussels bloc was embarking on 'the path of ideological colonisation,' that 'the EU document on Christmas is an anachronism' of 'watered-down secularism' and that such efforts 'throughout history' have 'not worked.' He said: 'In history, many dictatorships have tried to do these things. I'm thinking of Napoleon, the Nazi dictatorship.'
Guess that's one list card on Ursula von der Leyen's Christmas list – or should that be holiday list?