Pope unveils Vatican Christmas tree, EU unveils Nativity scene

Vatican Christmas

When the Vatican Christmas tree and nativity scene were unveiled on Saturday, Pope Francis reminded the faithful to “stay rooted in Jesus Christ” during the holidays.

“The tree teaches us about our roots, the nativity scene invites us to contemplation. Don’t forget these two human and Christian attitudes,” he said.

“The tree, with its lights, is a reminder that Jesus comes to lighten our darkness, our existence, which is often enclosed in the shadow of sin, of fear, of pain.

“And it inspires another reflection: like trees, men, too, need roots.”

Only the person “rooted firmly in the ground remains firm, grows, matures, resists the winds that shake him and becomes a reference point for those who watch,” he noted.

“This is what the Christmas tree reminds us of: being rooted in Jesus Christ,” he added.

This year’s tree dates back to medieval times and, according to locals, was planted by the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of San Giovanni in Verde.

The decorations were handmade by young people from a psychiatric care facility, who worked with elderly residents of a nursing home and local schoolchildren.

The creche in St. Peter’s Square, more than 20 feet high, is made up of 18 life-size wooden statues arranged under a large domed structure, all made without cutting down new trees.

“Simple and familiar, the creche evokes a Christmas that is different from the consumeristic and commercial one,” Francis said.

He encouraged believers to “make themselves small” in order to meet Christ where he is.

“We also are invited to contemplate the mystery of incarnation,” he added.

Francis concluded his remarks by reminding those in the hall that “God loves us so much that he wished to share our humanity and our lives.

“He never leaves us alone, he is at our side in every circumstance, in joy and in sorrow.”

The Pope’s reminders of the meaning of Christmas are evident in the European Parliament too.

Christmas this year marks the first time in its history the European Parliament has allowed a Nativity scene to be set up at its headquarters in Brussels.

Until now, officials of the European institution considered it “potentially offensive”.

Isabel Benjumea, a member in the EU’s House of Representatives from Spain, helped change this.

After three years effort, she gained the approval of the European Parliament president, Roberta Metsola, for the Nativity scene to be displayed.

It has, however, only been “authorised as a special exhibition,” which may or may not be renewed in the future.

Both Pope St John Paul II and emeritus Pope Benedict attempted to have Europe’s Christian roots recognised by the European Union.


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