Following a star Celebrity Nativity scene draws ire in U.K.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

LONDON -- Christian leaders on Wednesday denounced a Nativity scene at a London wax museum featuring soccer star David Beckham and his wife Victoria, a former Spice Girl, as the parents of Jesus.

The waxwork tableau at Madame Tussauds museum included President George W. Bush as one of the three Wise Men, actors Hugh Grant and Samuel L. Jackson as shepherds and Australian disco diva Kylie Minogue as an angel.

"There is a well-understood tradition that each generation interprets and reinterprets the Nativity ... but, oh dear!" said the Rev. Jonathan Jenkins, spokesman for the archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the world's 77 million Anglicans.

A Vatican spokesman said it was unacceptable to have celebrities representing Jesus, Joseph or Mary.

Madame Tussauds said it had respected this tradition, using a plastic doll in the manger. The other characters, it said, had been chosen in a public vote that drew 300 ballots.

"We're sorry if we have offended people," said Diane Moon, a spokeswoman for the museum, who said it was intended in a spirit of fun.

The scene also features British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prince Philip as Wise Men, and flamboyant talkshow host Graham Norton as a shepherd.

Arum Kataria, a spokesman for the Church of England, was unimpressed by Madame Tussauds' exhibit.

"The eternal story of Jesus will last a lot longer than these waxworks or the celebrities in it," he said.

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