Vatican City, Dec 8, 2017 / 08:55 am
In an inauguration ceremony Thursday, the Vatican officially unveiled this year's nativity scene in St. Peter's Square, also lighting the 69-foot Christmas tree for the first time this year.
In an audience with the tree and nativity donors Dec. 7, Pope Francis reflected on the symbolism found in the two Christmas traditions, which he said are "signs of the compassion of the heavenly Father, of his participation and closeness to humanity" even in its "very difficulties."
The branches of the tree, "reaching upward," remind us to reach for "the highest gifts," he explained. And in "the simplicity of the crib we meet and contemplate the tenderness of God" as manifested in the Child Jesus.
This year's Vatican nativity scene was created by artisans in a local workshop and donated by an ancient Benedictine Abbey, the Sanctuary of Montevergine, which lies near Naples.