In Greccio, the pope also signed the apostolic letter Admirabile signum, which means "A wonderful sign," to encourage the tradition of the nativity scene in families, schools, workplaces, hospitals, prisons, and town squares.
"Setting up the Christmas crèche in our homes helps us to relive the history of what took place in Bethlehem," Pope Francis wrote in the letter.
"When, at Christmas, we place the statue of the Infant Jesus in the manger, the nativity scene suddenly comes alive. God appears as a child, for us to take into our arms. Beneath weakness and frailty, he conceals his power that creates and transforms all things," he said.
After his visit to Greccio, "the pope wanted to give a further sign of his attention to this tradition of faith," according to a Dec. 9 statement from Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni.
The international display of nativities features many different styles, from the elaborate to the homemade.
It brings together nativities from Taiwan to Panama made from a variety of materials, including pinecones, aluminum, coral, yarn, and papier-mache. Among the many historical nativities from Italy is a modern rendition of the nativity made entirely out of pasta.