Pope John Paul spoke about Christmas cribs during his Angelus reflections on Gaudete Sunday. He said "as Christmas approaches, many places are setting up nativity scenes, such as here in St Peter's Square. Large or small, simple or elaborate, the crib is a familiar and very expressive representation of Christmas. It is part of our culture and art, but above all it is a sign of faith in God, Who in Bethlehem came 'to live in our midst'." As he does traditionally on the third Sunday of Advent, the Pope blessed statues of Baby Jesus, brought to St Peter's Square by children and young people, who will later place them in nativity scenes in their homes, schools and parishes. This year there are campaigns in several parts of Italy to eliminate, in schools or other public venues, traditional Christian symbols of Christmas. As he blessed the statues, John Paul noted they will be placed in nativity scenes "where we can already find Joseph and Mary, silent witnesses of a sublime mystery. With their look of love they invite us to be vigilant and to pray to receive the divine Saviour, who comes to bring the joy of Christmas to the world." After the Angelus, the Pope pointed out that the diocese of Rome on Gaudate Sunday celebrate the day for building new churches in periphery. "In recent years 54 communities have been able to have a new church, but at least 20 more are waiting. I therefore encourage people to be generous so that everyone can have a place in which to grow in faith and in Christian life." He concluded his remarks by inviting everyone to join him today (Tuesday) at 5.30pm in St Peter's Basilica, when he will preside at a Mass for students of Rome's universities.
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