A senior statesman of the Philippines' dominant Catholic church has accused Santa Claus of stealing the true spirit of Christmas, which he said is deteriorating into a shopping frenzy.
In comments published by a Roman Catholic website on Friday, Teodoro Bacani, a newly retired Manila bishop, said Santa Claus now had too much appeal in the Philippines, where eight in 10 people are baptised Catholics.
"Santa Claus helps promote consumerism because he is the symbol of shopping and gift-giving. Christ symbolises the sacrifice of life for man. But Santa has more commercial draw," Bacani said.
Bacani lamented that statues and images of Santa Claus were now displayed prominently across the Philippines while the traditional Christian symbol of the creche denoting the birth of Jesus was disappearing.
Filipinos should remember that Christmas is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus, said Bacani, a former close confidant of the late Philippine leader and democracy icon Corazon Aquino.
"Let us keep Christ at Christmas. Let us project Christ at Christmas," he said in comments carried by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines website.
It said the comments were originally made in an interview with the Manila Catholic radio station, Veritas.