Pope Benedict switched on the lights of the Vatican Christmas tree lit this evening in a ceremony presided over by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State. The tree - a 34 metre high Norway spruce that is 93 years old - was presented by a delegation from the town of Luson in the province of Bolzano, part of the Italian region of Alto Adige. Luson has also donated 50 smaller trees which will be used to decorate various sites in theVatican.
The Holy Father noted that the spruce, "which stood at an altitude of 1500 metres and was cut down without damaging the forest environment, will stand next to the nativity scene until the end of the Christmas festivities".
He said: "The Christmas tree enriches the symbolic value of the nativity scene, which is a message of fraternity and friendship, an invitation to unity and peace, an invitation to make space for God in our life and society. He offers us His omnipotent love through the fragile figure of a child, because He wants us to respond freely with our own love.
Thus the nativity scene and the tree bear a message of hope and love, and help to create an environment in which to experience the mystery of the birth of the Redeemer in the right spiritual and religious context".