Isabel Benjumea, a Spanish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), has fought insistently to have a Nativity scene put up in the European Parliament headquarters during the holiday season. “Europe cannot be understood without its Christian roots,” she says, and for this reason she believes it has been a worthwhile battle.
Thanks to her persistence, this year a Nativity scene will be inaugurated at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Brussels, something that has never happened before. And it’s not just any Crèche. They’ve chosen a handcrafted Nativity scene from Murcia, Spain, from the workshop of master craftsman Jesús Griñán, who has already mounted Nativity scenes in other places in Europe and in Asia.
The Nativity scene be on display until the arrival of the Three Wise Men on January 6.
Isabel Benjumea is a practicing Catholic. In her family she has always had the “luck” to live Christmas with intensity: “Enjoying the Nativity is a very beautiful experience that we have at Christmas, from the moment the Nativity scene begins to be set up.”
For her, the Nativity is “the most beautiful way to preach the Gospel. Putting up Nativity scenes with beautiful images of the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph is the best way to present the message to passers-by.”
She understands that her faith should not be imposed on others. That’s why she “isn’t defending the Catholic faith to the hilt with this initiative. But it’s a defense of freedom of faith, a crusade to normalize something that has been left out of institutions.”
The MEP defends the Christian roots of Europe. “Neither its history, nor its culture, nor its art can be understood without Christianity. Neither can we understand the political project of the EU without Christian humanism, which is the source of inspiration for many of the founding fathers of the European project, such as Robert Schuman,” she says.
This is the reason for her “commitment”: She wants people to understand “that without the Christian faith none of this would have existed.” She also points out that “the freest, most tolerant and prosperous societies are societies with Christian roots.”
The first refusals
But she had to fight to achieve it. First she contacted the office of the President of the Parliament, which three months later gave a negative reply because the Nativity scene was considered an exhibition of religious content that could be offensive.
Then she asked:
“Is it offensive to enter the Prado Museum and see the wonderful works of Fra Angelico, Caravaggio or Velázquez when they exhibit the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Kings, or the Nativity? Is it offensive to remind Europeans that on December 25 what is celebrated is the birth of Jesus of Nazareth?”
And she added,
“This institution cannot fall into the trap of considering it offensive to remember that what we celebrate at Christmas is the birth of Christianity. This institution cannot fall into the trap that the left constantly poses to us, wanting to feel offended by reaffirming something as simple as the historical legacy of Europe.”
She also said she found it curious that an institution that commemorates something or another every single day would only be bothered by commemorating Christmas.
The meaning of the Nativity
Benjumea continued to fight until she succeeded. She defends her position that a Nativity scene is not offensive, as the European Parliament had maintained until now. In fact, she argues that it makes perfect sense to put one up:
As Christmas approaches, now in this time of Advent, in an institution of European citizens where the vast majority declare themselves Christians, we should be able to have a reminder with this Nativity, with this representation, of what is celebrated at Christmas, which is the birth of Christianity, the birth of Jesus.
For this reason, the MEP herself went last Friday to see how the crib was being set up, to ensure firsthand that it will look spectacular thanks to the tenacity she has shown with this initiative.
But this MEP has not been alone in her battle. Her fight began three years ago, in 2019, and she has had the support of the current president of the Parliament itself, Roberta Metsola, who is from Malta. She has also had the support of the leader of the Spanish Popular Party in the European Chamber, Dolors Montserrat.
Every initiative has a cost. It’s not the European Parliament that’s paying for the Crèche, but all the Spanish MEPs of the Popular Party. In addition, they want it to become a tradition and to be set up also during the coming years.