The 110-year-old fir, which is 32 meters high (115 feet) and weighs 84 quintals (16,800 pounds), was donated to John Paul II by the Trento region of northeastern Italy, and by 12 town councils of the Rendena Valley.

The tree is intended, in part, as a call for solidarity with Tanzania. The Italian bishops' conference and the Trento region have launched a fund-raising campaign in Italy "to finance the formation of medical and paramedical personnel who will work in Dodoma, administrative capital of Tanzania," explained a statement published by the region.

The project in Dodoma will begin in 2005 with the help of several doctors from northern Italy who will stay in Tanzania for two years.