This morning, Pope Francis received in audience the delegation from Malta and Trentino for the gift of the Crib and of the Christmas Tree set up in Saint Peter’s Square. Here is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the audience.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning! I am happy to receive you and to express my gratitude on the occasion of the inauguration of the tree and the crib, which will be admired in Saint Peter’s Square by pilgrims from all over the world, during Advent and the Christmas festivities. I thank the bishops and the government of Malta, who donated and set up the crib, as well as well as the Forest Association of the Lagorai, which has put at our disposition, the large red fir <tree> and the other trees allocated to environments of the Vatican. And I greet all of you, representatives of the Archdiocese and of the Province of Trento, with the authorities of the Municipalities of Bassa Valsugana. A special thought goes to you children, who decorated the tree, with the support of the “Lene Thun Foundation” [Children with cancer in hospital were responsible for the ceramic ornaments decorating the tree]. The colored spheres you created depict the values of life, of love and of peace, which Christ’s proposes to us again every year.
The crib placed in Saint Peter’s Square, work of artist Manwel Grech of Gozo, reproduces the Maltese landscape and is completed by the traditional cross of Malta and of the “luzzu,” typical Maltese boat, which also recalls the sad and tragic reality of migrants on barges directed to Italy. In the painful experience of these brothers and sisters, we see again that of the Baby Jesus, who at the moment of birth did not find lodging and was born in a cave of Bethlehem; and then He was taken to Egypt to flee from Herod’s threat. All those who will visit this Crib will be invited to rediscover its symbolic value, which is a message of fraternity, of sharing, of hospitality and of solidarity. The Cribs set up in churches, in homes and in so many public places are also an invitation to make room in our life and in society for God, hidden in the face of many persons who are in conditions of hardship, of poverty and of tribulation.
The Christmas Tree placed beside the Crib comes from forests of Scurelle, at the foot of the mountainous chain of the Lagorai, surrounded by an enchanting nature, with flowers, plants and crystalline streams that run alongside the paths. The beauty of those landscapes is an invitation to contemplate the Creator and to respect nature, work of His hands. We are all called to approach Creation with contemplative wonder.
The Crib and the Tree, therefore, are a message of hope and of love, and they help to create a favorable Christmas atmosphere to live with faith the mystery of the Birth of the Redeemer, who came on earth with simplicity and meekness. Before the Crib let us allow ourselves to be attracted, with the spirit of children, because there we understand God’s goodness and contemplate His mercy, which was made human flesh to tenderize our eyes.
I thank you! I wish you here present and all the inhabitants of your countries to spend the Lord’s Birth with serenity and intensity. I ask you, please, to pray for me, and I invoke the Lord’s Blessing upon you, upon your families and upon the populations of your lands.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]