A public school principal in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy has been accused of canceling Christmas after removing religious songs from the annual holiday pageant.

Everyone from Italy's premier to the Italian bishop's conference daily newspaper has chimed in on what has been cast as an affront to Italian tradition. Matteo Renzi called it "a useless provocation" while L'Avvenire called it "a mistaken choice resulting from an excess of laicism and ideology."

The controversy erupted in recent days after parents of elementary school children in Rozzano, south of Milan, complained that the traditional Christmas pageant had been recast as a winter festival and moved to January. Principal Marco Parma told an Italian daily that he wanted to avoid religiously themed songs to prevent excluding non-Christian children. He has offered his resignation.