This second weekend of Advent, Pope Francis has remotely lit a Christmas tree and manger scene in Italy.
According to a statement of the Holy See Press Office, Saturday afternoon, in a video-link message from the Vatican, the Holy Father symbolically lit the lights of the Christmas tree and Manger set up in the square in front of the Lower Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
This year’s Manger was installed in a boat that brought to safety some migrants from Tunisia to the Southern Italian island of Lampedusa.
The lighting ceremony took place at the end of the Holy Mass, presided over in the Lower Basilica by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household. Participants in the lighting ceremony included 31 refugees being assisted by the diocesan Caritas of Assisi.
In the video-message, the Pope recalls that Jesus is always with us, even in in the most difficult moments, and reminded all refugees that the Lord is close, so keep your heads high with hope.
Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ words. (D.C.L.)
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Looking at that boat … [the Crib was installed in a barge] Jesus is always with us, also in difficult moments. How many brothers and sisters were drowned in the sea! They are now with the Lord. But He came to give us hope, and we must take up that hope. He came to tell us that He is stronger than death, that He is greater than any wickedness. He came to tell us that He is merciful, all mercy; and in this Christmas I invite you to open your heart to mercy, to forgiveness. But it is not easy to forgive these massacres. It’s not easy.
I would like to thank the members of the Coast Guard: they are good women and men. I thank you from my heart, because you have been an instrument of hope that brings us Jesus. Among us, you have been sowers of hope, of the hope of Jesus. Thank you, Antonio, and to you and to all your companions and to all those that this Italian soil has so generously received: the South of Italy has been an example of solidarity for the whole world! I hope that, looking at this Crib, all will be able to say to Jesus: “I have also given a hand so that you are a sign of hope!”
And to all the refugees I say a word, that of the prophet: Raise your head, the Lord is close — and with Him strength, salvation and hope. The heart, perhaps, is sorrowful, but the head is high in the hope of the Lord.
All of you refugees, and all of you of the Coast Guard: I embrace you and wish you a Holy Christmas, full of hope, and with many caresses of the Lord.[Original Text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]