By Vatican News
The Pope began by recalling last autumn’s storm that devastated entire wooded areas in Italy’s northern Triveneto region, home to the dioceses that donated this year’s Christmas tree to the Vatican. “These are events that frighten us”, said the Pope, “they are warning signs that creation sends us, and that ask us to take effective decisions immediately for the protection of our common home.”
The Christmas tree
“Tonight the lights that adorn the tree will be on”, continued Pope Francis, “It will remain next to the crib until the end of the Christmas holidays, and both will be admired by the many pilgrims from all over the world”. The Pope went on to praise the initiative that will see the replanting of 40 fir trees to replenish the forests damaged by the 2018 storm. The spruce tree decorating St Peter’s Square “represents a sign of hope especially for your forests”, he added, so that the work of reforestation can begin as soon as possible.
The Christmas crib
Turning to the nativity scene, Pope Francis said this Christmas crib, made almost entirely of wood and composed of architectural elements characteristic of the Trentino tradition, will help visitors enjoy the spiritual richness of Christmas. “The wooden trunks from the areas affected by the storms, which serve as a backdrop to the landscape, underline the precariousness in which the Holy Family found itself on that night in Bethlehem”, said the Pope.
The visit to Greccio
Pope Francis concluded by recalling his visit last Sunday to the town of Greccio, the place where St. Francis made the first nativity scene. The Pope referred to his Apostolic Letter, Admirabile signum, dedicated to the Christmas crib, “which is a simple and wonderful sign of our faith and is not lost”, he said. “Indeed, it is good that it is handed down from parents to children, from grandparents to grandchildren. It is a genuine way of communicating the Gospel, in a world that sometimes seems to be afraid to remember what Christmas really is”.