Pope thanks donors for Christmas tree and crib

The nativity scene and Christmas tree in St Peter's Square. Photo credit: Daniel Ibanez

 VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis held an audience for the donors of the St Peter’s Christmas tree and nativity scene on Saturday, the Vatican said in a press release. The pontiff welcomed and thanked those present in the Paul VI Audience Hall on the day of the official unveiling and lighting ceremony of the Vatican Christmas tree and nativity scene.

 The choice of tree for St Peter’s Square this December had been a source of some controversy. Initially selected was a splendid 100 ft silver fir in Abruzzo, the region which this year bears the responsibility of providing the Vatican tree. However, it soon came to light that this specimen was in fact over the border in neighbouring Molise. Meanwhile, environmentalists argued that such a majestic and old evergreen, estimated to be over 200 years old, should not be cut down at all. 

 Eventually regional authorities opted instead to fell a youthful fir of only 62 years, which now stands clad in full Christmas regalia at the centre of St Peter’s Square, together with the more austere crib.

 The pontiff expressed his gratitude for the donations during the audience, saying “I would like to direct special thanks to the artisan woodworkers, who sculpted the figures for the nativity scene; to the members of the ‘Quadrifoglio’ residence who made a number of the decorations for the tree; to those of the Palena nursery who grew the fir and the smaller trees destined for other parts of the Vatican.”

 Of the Christmas installation’s religious significance, Pope Francis said “The tree, with its lights, recalls Jesus who comes to brighten our darkness, our existence which is often under the shadow of sin, of fear and of pain” and that “the nativity scene, tells us of the birth of the Son of God made man in order to be close to each of us. In its genuine poverty, the nativity scene helps us to find the true richness of Christmas, and to cleanse us of the many aspects that pollute the Christmas landscape.”