Jesus was born in Longarone, a small town in northern Italy, on 25 December 2011, according to a birth certificate issued on that day. It is not a Christmas hoax, but a move proposed by priest Father Gabriele Bernardi to educate disbelieving youngsters.

Struggling with his young pupils' scepticism, Father Bernardi came out with an original idea to explain Jesus Christ's origins by demanding a real birth certificate.

He was struck by similarities with the current political situation, as Italy is undertaking a census of all people and households in the country, similar to that of the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus two thousand years ago.

Those parallels encouraged Father Bernandi to apply for a certificate for Jesus, born of unknown father and mother on 25 December 2011. Longarone's mayor Roberto Padrin enthusiastically agreed to sign the formal act.

"When Father Bernardi explained to me the reason for the request I accepted immediately," he said. "It was a pleasant surprise."

"The certificate request is purely educational," explained Father Bernardi. "I needed it to tell my children that Jesus was born to be a man among men. He lives among us in Longarone. He was a child like them and then, like them, he has his birth certificate."

But the document has stirred a controversy on Twitter. The honorary president of the Atheists Union Piergiorgio Odifreddi argued that Father Bernardi "badly needs a psychiatrist". Many people pointed out that Father Bernardi's move is illegal.

Others reacted with irony, calling for a death certificate in 33 years.