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Christmas tree arrives in St Peter's Square

 A 30-meter high, 110-year old spruce tree from the northern Italian region of Valle D'Aosta will be placed in St Peter's Square today, next to the immense nativity scene currently being constructed by Vatican workmen. The tree, along with twenty other smaller ones that will be placed in and around Vatican City, are the gifts of this Italian region to the Holy Father for Christmas 2003. John Paul II has spent seven summer vacations in Valle D'Aosta. Three hundred people from Valle D'Aosta, including the president of the region, will symbolically present the tree to the Holy Father at the general audience next Wednesday, December 17. One of the other trees, decorated by regional artisans, will grace the Paul VI Hall: At the foot of the tree will be a handmade nativity scene in wood which last Christmas was in the upper Basilica of St Francis in Assisi. That same afternoon, at 4:30 in St. Peter's Square, Cardinal Edmund Szoka, president of the Governorate of Vatican City, will preside at the official tree lighting ceremony. He will be joined by officials of Valle D'Aosta and members of local folklore groups and choirs will entertain.