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A priest has criticised comedians like Jimmy Carr for making fun of Christianity – blaming the lack of respect for the faith on the vandalism of a nativity crib scene.

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Father Michael Daley of Our Lady and St Joseph Catholic Church, in Balls Pond Road, Kingsland, realised the church’s traditional crib display had been damaged on New Year’s Eve when he was notified by a distressed parishioner.

The side of the glass-fronted boxed display had been smashed, statues had been knocked over, and the figure of St Joseph is still missing.

“Why they focused on St Joseph, I have no idea,” said Father Michael.

“It’s been in that public street for the last 30 years.

“People see it as a symbol of Christmas – the people who come to mass are saddened by it, but it’s just indicative of the times, where there is a lack of respect for the religious symbols.”

The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, presented by Jimmy Carr on Channel 4, ignited controversy on New Year’s Eve when the comedian made remarks about the queen, leading many people to complain to media watchdog Ofcom.

But the church also bore the brunt of his jokes.

Father Michael said: “He made a comment about people going off to midnight mass to worship an invisible man.

“He’s a comedian but there doesn’t seem to be any sensitivity to people’s beliefs nowadays – it’s offensive.

“He might think it’s amusing to vilify the Christian faith but it permeates into the consciousness of people – there’s nothing wrong with free speech but sometimes it goes too far.”

He added: “I’m not saying he has anything to do with the crib scene but it creates a consciousness

“You are bordering on free speech but Christians seems to be fair game at the moment.”

Barney Probert, who lives in Hawthorne Close, Newintgon Green, said: “It’s really sad, because it brings a lot of joy to people – not just church-goers but people in the neighbourhood walking past.”

The Crib will remain in place until February, despite the damage.

Anyone with information call DS Stuart Smillie on on 020 7421 0148 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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