The new stamps feature the Baby Jesus and Pope Francis holding a lantern as part of an Austrian initiative that involves sharing the flame from the Church of the Nativity.
The Vatican has released the design for its new Christmas stamps, which are part of a joint issue with Austria and a tribute to that country’s initiative, “Peace Light of Bethlehem.”
One of the two 1.15 euro stamps features the Baby Jesus with the Church of the Christ Child in Steyr, Austria, behind him. The other stamp shows Pope Francis holding a lantern in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The 2020 Vatican Christmas stamps, a joint issue with Austria, focused on the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem pic.twitter.com/62bBjlTfIO— Cindy Wooden (@Cindy_Wooden) October 29, 2020
The pair of states commemorate the “Peace Light of Bethlehem” initiative, which was inaugurated in 1986 by the Austrian broadcasting company ORF. Each year in early December an Austrian girl or boy is selected to go to Bethlehem to light a lantern from the oil lamp that hangs above the 14-point Star of Bethlehem within the Church of the Nativity. The star marks the spot where Jesus is believed to have been born, and is an important pilgrimage site for Christians.
The lantern is then flown back to Vienna on board an airplane, and the flame is used to light other lamps and candles in churches and by Nativity scenes.
The flame then travels by train throughout Europe during the third week of Advent, acting as an ambassador of peace as it announces the birth of Jesus. In past years the Austrian Scouts movement and Austrian Airlines have transported the Light of Peace to parts of North and South America and beyond.
Over the years the light has been presented to Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis.
Watch this video from 2017, which shows Tobias Flachner as he collects the flame from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and as he carries it back by plane to Austria: