12/12/2004, 00.00
VATICAN

The crèche is a sign of culture and faith, Pope says

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – For John Paul II, the crèche still matters. Speaking before the Angelus, the Pope said that the scene of the Nativity of Jesus was not only "part of our culture and art but also a sign of faith in God who, in Bethlehem, "made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14).

Boys and girls attended the traditional blessing in St Peter's Square of the statue of the 'Bambinello', of the Baby Jesus, that will be placed in the crèche.

In recent days, the decision taken in some schools not to set up the crèche out of respect for non Catholic pupils, especially Muslim pupils, has been front-page news. In the ensuing debate, many Muslims said they were in favour of the crèche since Islam considers Jesus a prophet. Church leaders intervened saying that those who want to remove the crèche from schools are not motivated by respect for Muslims but by secularist ideas, confusing tolerance with intellectual relativism.

Here are the Pope's remarks before the Marian prayer:

"Christmas is upon us and in many places people are setting up a crèche, like here in St Peter's. Whether big or small, fancy or simple, the crèche is a familiar and expressive representation of Christmas. It is part of our culture and art but especially a sign of faith in God who "made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14) in Bethlehem."

"As I do every year, I shall bless the 'Bambinelli', the statues of Baby Jesus, which will be placed in the crèche on Holy Night, joining Joseph and Mary, who are silent witnesses of a sublime mystery."

"With loving eyes, they tell us to wait and pray in order to welcome the Divine Saviour who is coming to bring the world the joy of Christmas."

"This joy invites us to enjoy today, the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday [i.e. the Sunday of rejoicing]."

"Let us call on the Virgin to kindle during this period of waiting the desire in Christians and people of good will to meet the Lord, who is so near us."

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