Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis met this morning with delegations from the Italian cities of Verona and Catanzaro to thank them for donating the Christmas tree and crèche (Nativity Scene) that the Holy Father inaugurated in St Peter's Square this afternoon.
During the audience, he said that crèche and the Christmas tree evoke the mystery of the incarnation. Even to those who do not believe in God, they speak "of fraternity, intimacy and friendship, and call on the men and women of our time to rediscover the beauty of simplicity, sharing and solidarity."
"The crèche and the Christmas tree," the pope said, "are Christmas signs that are always suggestive and dear to our Christian families. They remind us of the Mystery of the Incarnation, of God' only-begotten Son who became man to save us, as well as of the light that Jesus brought to the world with his birth.
Indeed, "the crèche and the tree touch everyone's heart, even of those who do not believe in God, for they speak of fraternity, intimacy and friendship, and call on the men and women of our time to rediscover the beauty of simplicity, sharing and solidarity."
For the pontiff, these symbols "are a call for unity, harmony and peace, an invitation to make room, in our personal and social life, for God, who does not come with arrogance to impose his power, but offers us his all-powerful love through the fragile figure of a Child. The crèche and the tree bring a message of light, hope and love."
"To those present here, to your families and to all the inhabitants of your regions, the Veneto and Calabria, I wish you to spend the Lord's Christmas with serenity and intensity. He, the Messiah, became man and dwelt among us, to dissipate the darkness of error and sin, and bring to humanity his divine light."
"Jesus himself said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life' (Jn, 8:12). Let us [thus] follow Him, the true light: not to wander off but to pass on our light and warmth onto those who are living through hardships and inner darkness. "
The Christmas tree that Francis lighted this afternoon is 25.5 metres tall, with a 10-metre crown on top. The crèche includes some 20 life-size terracotta figures, dressed with clothes and accessories made of weather resistant material.
After the crèche and the Christmas tree, the pope went to turn on the lights of the façade and the dome of St Peter's Basilica. The new lighting display includes 315 Led lights, and will, among other things, cut energy use.