12/19/2004, 00.00
VATICAN
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May the Christmas tree teach us to give ourselves, says the Pope

Pontiff lovingly greets 32 children who survived the Beslan school massacre.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – If the crèche symbolises the birth of Christ, the Christmas tree—which never dies in winter—reminds us of Christ, 'the tree of life', and, through the gifts that are found under it, symbolises the God's supreme gift to humanity.

After speaking about the crèche before last Sunday's Angelus, the Pope today spoke about the Christmas tree, it, too, a symbol of celebration but above all of gift-giving.

"The meaning of the Christmas tree message is that life is 'evergreen' if we give, not so much material things but ourselves: in friendship and sincere affection, in brotherly help and forgiveness, in mutual sharing and listening to one another."

The Pope's loving greetings to a group of children from Beslan symbolised such giving of oneself.

"It is with great affection," the Pope said, "that I welcome the children from Beslan, who with some relatives are staying with the Discalced Carmelites of Trento."

"Dearest ones,

May the goodness that you are receiving from so many friends help you overcome the wounds of the terrible experience you had".

Speaking before 20,000 faithful gathered in St Peter's Square next to the already decorated big Christmas tree and the yet-to-be-completed crèche, John Paul II, appearing in good conditions, said: "Christmas, perhaps the most cherished popular tradition, is rich in symbols tied to many different cultures. As I said last week, the crèche is certainly the most important among all of them."

"Next to it, as we see here in St Peter's Square, there is the traditional 'Christmas tree'. It is an ancient custom that proclaims the value of life in winter—the evergreen fir becomes the symbol of life that never dies."

"As tradition dictates, Christmas gifts are placed under the decorated tree. Even in its Christian interpretation, the symbol speaks for itself for it reminds us of the 'tree of life' (cf Gn 2:9), of Christ, God's supreme gift to humanity".

"The meaning of the Christmas tree message is that life is 'evergreen' if we give, not so much material things but ourselves: in friendship and sincere affection, in brotherly help and forgiveness, in mutual sharing and listening to one another."

"May Mary help us experience Christmas as a time to taste the joy of giving ourselves to our brothers and sisters, especially those who are the most in need."

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