St. Peter's Christmas Tree Seen as Ecumenical Symbol

Ukraine Donation Called a Sign of Catholic-Orthodox Collaboration

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2011 ( The Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square, a practice started by John Paul II and now a firm tradition, was lit last Friday evening.

The 30.5-meter (100-foot) spruce, with its 2,500 ornaments, came from the Ukrainian region of the Zakarpattia. Several thousand people watched as the lights were turned on by a small Ukrainian boy dressed in his country’s national costume. 

Bishops from the Catholic and Orthodox bishops from Ukraine were present at the event.

Those attending included His Beatitude Svioatoslav Schevchuck, archbishop major of Kyiv-Halyc; archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latins; eparch Milan Sasik of Mukachevo, and representatives of the Orthodox Church led by the archbishop of Poltava and Myrhorod.

«The Christmas tree offered today to the Holy Father is the symbol of the unity of Christmas peace and of Ukraine,» said His Beatitude Svioatoslav Schevchuck, but also a «symbol of devotion and union to the Successor of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI.»

It is a symbol of the «collaboration between the Catholic and Orthodox Church of Ukraine represented by our Orthodox brothers and by ourselves, present in this ancient Square of St. Peter,» he added.

For his part, Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki stressed that the gift coincides with the 20th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union and with the 10th anniversary of John Paul II’s visit to the country.

Eparch Milan Sasik said that just as the obelisk of St. Peter’s Square witnessed the death of the Apostle Peter, giving witness of his love for Christ as the first Pope of Rome, so this tree was witness of the bishop martyr Theodore Romza, who lived a short distance from the forest where the spruce was. This year marks 100 years since his birth and the 75th anniversary of his ordination in Rome. He was beatified 10 years ago by John Paul II.

Enduring life

Earlier on Friday morning, receiving a delegation from Ukraine, Benedict XVI said «this Christmas tree is a significant symbol of Christ’s nativity because, with its evergreen boughs, it reminds us of enduring life.»

«The spruce is also a sign of popular religiosity in your country, and of the Christian roots of your culture,» the Pope added. «My hope is that these roots may increasingly reinforce your national unity, favouring the promotion of authentic shared values. Over the centuries your nation has been a crossroads of different cultures, a meeting point for the spiritual richness of East and West. By tenaciously adhering to the values of the faith, may it continue to respond to this unique vocation.»

The tree and nativity scene, the Pontiff said, «are elements of that typically Christmas atmosphere which is part of our communities’ spiritual heritage; a climate impregnated with religiosity and family intimacy which we must seek to conserve, even in modern societies where consumerism and the search for material goods sometimes seem to prevail.»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation