BAKERY chain Greggs is facing calls for a boycott after sparking outrage among Christians, Muslims and libertarian campaigners by depicting a half-eaten sausage roll in the crib of a Nativity scene.

The high street fast food giant has received condemnation from numerous groups after releasing a Christmas advent calendar showing the snack in a straw-lined manger surrounded by three wise men.

The £24 calendar is on sale in Greggs’ shops and behind each door is a voucher for one of its products. A Greggs spokesman said: “We’re really sorry to have caused any offence, this was never our intention.”

The Diocese of Durham said it was concerned about the Christmas story being lost across a broad spectrum of advertising over the festive period and to single out Greggs would ignore "the fantastic and generous work they do in communities across the North-East".

A spokesman said: “We can understand why the Greggs Christmas image is creating a lot of discussion and causing offence to many, not only Christians.

"We don’t endorse this depiction of Christmas, but we do recognise that in the very least it is getting people talking about the real meaning behind Christmas and that has to be a good thing.”

Simon Richards, chief executive of libertarian pressure group the Freedom Association, has also called called for a public protest.

He tweeted: “Please boycott @GreggsOfficial to protest against its sick anti-Christian Advent Calendar. What cowards these people are: we all know that they would never dare insult other religions. They should donate every penny of their profits to @salvationarmyuk.”

Newcastle City Councillor Dipu Ahad, is a spokesman for the North-East Islam community.

He said: “It is disgraceful and quite literally distasteful. It is an absolute outrage and needs to be condemned. You are selling your product on the back of offending millions of people.”

Reverend Mark Edwards, of St Matthew’s Church in Dinnington, Newcastle, said Greggs had been "disrespectful" and has written to the North-East firm’s chief executive Roger Whiteside to complain.

The Rev Edwards said: “You show such contempt for millions of Christians who no doubt shop at your stores. I wouldn’t be surprised if people voted with their feet and boycotted Greggs, I know I am and I wouldn’t discourage anyone else from doing the same either.

"I have always shopped at Greggs, but not any more.

"If this the way you treat one of our major Christian celebrations then it demonstrates that you are devoid of any kind of sensitivity whatsoever ever to millions of Christians who will be offended by such an outrages display of insensitivity and what can only amount to contempt for Christianity.”

The clergyman challenged Greggs to show "the same contempt and disrespect to the Islam Prophet Muhammad" and said: “The truth is you wouldn’t dare, so why show such utter contempt for Christianity?"