On Thursday (Dec. 5), the Vatican hosted a Christmas tree lighting ceremony ahead of the holidays, but it was the Nativity scene that stole the show.
Almost entirely made from wood, the Nativity scene ticks every box of Pope Francis’ pontificate. The plight of immigrants and refugees is depicted by the statue of a man carrying his belongings as he approaches the manger, which is the picture of poverty and humility, while the pope’s environmental message is underlined by the fact that the creche is entirely plastic-free.
In a private audience with the masons and artisans from Italy’s northern Trento region who created the creche, Pope Francis said the scene “is a genuine way of communicating the gospel, in a world that sometimes seems to be afraid of remembering what Christmas really is and eliminates Christian symbols, only to retain those drawn from a banal, commercial imagination.”
About 25 life-size characters populate this year’s scene, which depicts everyday life in the 19th century, from cheese-making to cleaning and cooking.
At its center, Mary and Joseph surround the empty manger that will host a likeness of baby Jesus on Christmas Day.
The Nativity scene is set under an almost 85-foot-tall spruce that is decorated and lit with the Vatican’s traditionally spare ornaments. During his meeting with those who donated the tree, Francis expressed his appreciation for the fact that 40 new spruces were planted in its place.
But there is another side to the natural beauty of this year’s Christmas display, as it incorporates fallen trees collected from more than 100,000 acres of land ravaged by a severe storm that hit northern Italy at the end of last year. Bishops attending the ceremony on Thursday said that such events serve as a reminder of the destruction and damage that can occur if humanity does not make a concerted effort to combat climate change.
Pope Francis has been a strong advocate for the defense and care of creation, starting with his 2015 encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’.”
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Source: Religion News Service