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Celeb Nativity Scene Irks Vatican

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AP
People generally chuckle at the lineup of celebrities Madame Tussauds. But deck the figures in religious garb, and some of the smiles turn to sneers.

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.

"Posh and Becks are incredibly famous. They're the couple of the moment in this day, like Mary and Joseph were the couple of that moment," says Diana Moon of Madame Tussauds.

But the Anglican Church Times called the display, "just pathetic," and Bishop Michael Marshall, in an

CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips, said: "It's a pity that our generation seems to be able to maul and smudge everything."

The waxwork tableau at Madame Tussaud's museum includes actors Hugh Grant and Samuel L. Jackson as shepherds and Australian disco diva Kylie Minogue as an angel.

The Vatican was not amused, calling the tableau tasteless. A spokesman said it was unacceptable to have celebrities representing Jesus, Joseph or Mary.

But its not only the main characters' portrayal the church has a problem with, Phillips reports. What's worse, they say, is who has been chosen to depict the three wisemen: Tony Blair, the Queen's husband Prince Phillip and, perhaps to add injury to insult, George W. Bush.

To critics, the museum says it's sorry, but the nativity will stand through Christmas.

Most visitors to the museum were more light-hearted, reports CBS News Correspondent Tom Fenton.

"I'm a great believer in the Lord, but I don't think He worries about things like this," one said.

"What I'm more concerned about is that George W. Bush appears to
be a 'wise' man," quipped another.

"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.

The Vatican spokesman mentioned the tradition in Naples of using celebrities such as Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, but never as one of the principal figures. "This means that the crib can be lived as something that's contemporary. But the central mystery must be respected," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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.