.- Pope Francis is bringing this year to a close by offering special prayers during the month of December for children who are victims of violence, and imploring Christians to prepare for the coming of Christ.
Each month this year has been dedicated to specific prayer intentions of the Holy Father, one general intention and one missionary intention.
The general intention concluding the year of 2013, as published earlier this year in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, is “That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.”
His missionary intention, which centers more specifically on the faithful's response to the season of Advent, is “That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior’s coming.”
Previous intentions this year have included prayers that priests who experience difficulty would be comforted in their struggles and confirmed in fidelity, and that those who are weighed down with burdens would experience the closeness of God.
In addition this spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord, Nov. 19 marked the beginning of the Vatican's external efforts with the initiation of the building of their annual nativity scene.
Every year the Vatican's “San Pietrini” workers, those in charge of maintaining the basilica both inside and out, design and construct the nativity displayed inside of Saint Peter's. This year, it is anticipated to be much smaller than in previous years.
Traditionally located within a large chapel of the basilica, the nativity has been moved to the “Baptistery Chapel” near the front entrance, which is higher and less wide, allowing less room for the decorations that usually adorn the scene.
A source close to the Vatican's nativity project revealed to CNA that this decision was made at the request of Pope Francis, who stated that he preferred something “very simple” and “down to the basics,” and which speaks of the poverty of Christ’s birth.
Because it is a “new scene” in a “new chapel,” the source noted that “it will be interesting to see what comes out of it.”
Also taking place within Saint Peter's are preparations for the arrival of the Vatican’s Christmas tree at the base of the Obelisk inside of Saint Peter’s Square, which began on Dec.2.
In the midst of recent controversy surrounding the cost of the tree in previous years, the archdiocese of Naples, led by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, has decided to donate the amount needed in order to cover the cost.
The tree to be placed in the Square is expected to be a large fir that will arrive from the region of Bavaria in Southern Germany, and will be erected on Dec. 6.