This year's Christmas tree and crib were inaugurated and lit up on Friday afternoon in St Peter's Square. Earlier in the day in the Paul VI hall, Pope Francis met with the donors of the tree and the nativity scene, telling them that these gifts "form a message of hope and love."
The 25 metre high spruce tree was donated by the Lagorai Forests Association which is located the Trentino region of Northern Italy and the Pope remarked that, "the beauty of those views is an invitation to contemplate the Creator and to respect nature, the work of his hands."
Welcoming the donors of the tree and crib, Pope Francis thanked them for their gifts which he said, would be admired in Saint Peter's Square "by pilgrims from around the world during Advent and the Christmas holidays."
The Pope also had a special word of thanks to the children who decorated the tree, with the support of the 'Lene Thun Foundation' that organises the ceramic therapy workshops in various Italian hospitals for children undergoing treatment for cancer and other illnesses. He told them that, "the multicoloured ornaments you have created represent the values of life, love and peace that Christ's Christmas proposes to us anew each year."
This year's crib in the Square, was donated by the Bishops and the Government of Malta and is the work of artist Manwel Grech from Gozo.
The Nativity scene features 17 figures dressed in traditional Maltese costume as well as a replica of a traditional 'Luzzu' Maltese boat.
The Holy Father said that this typical Maltese vessel, recalled "the sad and tragic reality of migrants on boats making their way toward Italy", and he expressed the hope that "those who visit this nativity scene would be invited to rediscover its symbolic value", which, he said, was "a message of fraternity, of sharing, of welcome and solidarity."
Pope Francis concluded by telling those gathered that, "the crib and the tree form a message of hope and love, and help create a Christmas spirit that can draw us closer to living with faith the mystery of the birth of the Redeemer who came to this earth in simplicity and meekness."
Source: Vatican Radio