Led by the Rev. William Cocco, nearly 100 people prayed the rosary as a sign of protest against Rehoboth’s decision not to allow a creche to be placed on city property near the Bandstand.
“We’re here to pray to the Blessed Mother to change the minds and hearts of the city,” said Cocco, prior to the Nov. 21 demonstration. “The reality is, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.”
Last year, St. Edmond Catholic Church members placed the nativity scene by the Bandstand without permission. Less than 48 hours later, it was removed at the request of the city. A week later, but not before lots of media attention, the nativity scene was installed in the outdoor patio entrance of Grotto Pizza on Rehoboth Avenue.
At the time, the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce offered its front lawn as a home for the nativity scene. It’s done the same this year. During the chamber’s award luncheon Nov. 20, chamber President Carol Everhart said she didn’t know what was going to happen.
Cocco said the city and its visitors celebrate Christmas by the Bandstand.
“The city starts the celebration of Christmas down there,” said Cocco. “That’s were all the people visit. Why not have a small representation of the reason? It doesn’t make any sense.”
This nativity scene has a long history in Rehoboth Beach. For decades, the local Kiwanis Club annually installed the foam figurines near the Boardwalk. In the late 2000s, during streetscape construction, the nativity moved up the street to the front lawn of M&T Bank.
It would be difficult to put the nativity scene at the Boardwalk this year because the city recently sodded the small plot of land, installed a decorative fence, and posted a sign advising everyone to stay off.
Cocco said he found the city’s recent improvements suspicious. He said he’s been telling the city for years the grass doesn’t look good and the bushes are overgrown.
“Now they decide to make the improvements,” he said sarcastically.
In an email Nov. 21, Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns said he had no comment on the protest and that the recent resodding had nothing to do with the nativity scene. He said repairs to the grassy area of the Veterans Garden were done early this fall because people continue to walk over the grass, despite signs asking them not to.
Looking to the future, Cocco said he doesn’t know what will be done if there’s no change.
“I’m going to keep praying, because I feel sorry for them,” he said.