‘There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none.’
It is not, and never has been, clear who those 'those' actually are, or who the Pope is battling to save Christmas from.
But it's a line the Mail and its ilk have been spinning for years - and they're not likely to stop now the Pope has repeated it.
On the Sky News paper preview on Friday night, Mail columnist John McEntee used the old urban myth about 'Birmingham renaming Christmas 'Winterval'' as Exhibit A.
Over in today's Express, Gary Nicks begins his article with:
Pope Benedict XVI yesterday made an impassioned plea for Britain to return to its Christian values and condemned the “politically correct brigade” who dismiss Christmas.
See what he did there? Put 'politically correct brigade' in quote marks to make it appear that the Pope actually used those very words.
Nicks goes on:
In recent years there have been cases of schools cancelling Christmas Nativity plays for fear of offending non-Christians and replacing them with winterval festivals.
He doesn't provide any specific examples of 'schools' doing these things.
In the Star, Emily Hall writes:
Speaking to a packed Westminster Hall in London, he urged people to turn their backs on the use of words like “Winterval” to describe the festival of Jesus’s birth.
She writes this despite the fact the Pope didn't actually use the word 'Winterval' and didn't say anything about the 'use of words' to describe Christmas.
Meanwhile, the Sun's James Clench says the Pope:
let rip at the politically correct knuckleheads who deem [Christmas] offensive to other faiths...
He urged his VIP audience to use their "respective spheres of influence" to help turn back a tide that has seen Christmas renamed Winterval.
Quite how his audience can turn back a tide that doesn't exist is hard to say.
But how many more times are these lazy 'journalists' going to trot out this Winterval nonsense before they accept that it is 'bollocks'?
Perhaps the most notorious of the anti-Christmas rebrandings is Winterval, in Birmingham, and when you telephone the Birmingham city council press office to ask about it, you are met first of all with a silence that might seasonably be described as frosty.
"We get this every year," a press officer sighs, eventually. "It just depends how many rogue journalists you get in any given year. We tell them it's bollocks, but it doesn't seem to make much difference."
According to an official statement from the council, Winterval - which ran in 1997 and 1998, and never since - was a promotional campaign to drive business into Birmingham's newly regenerated town centre. It began in early November and finished in January.
During the part of that period traditionally celebrated as Christmas, "there was a banner saying Merry Christmas across the front of the council house, Christmas lights, Christmas trees in the main civil squares, regular carol-singing sessions by school choirs, and the Lord Mayor sent a Christmas card with a traditional Christmas scene wishing everyone a Merry Christmas".
How dare these 'politically correct knuckleheads' ban Christmas in such a way.