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Vatican Nativity scene to focus on migrants, the sick, environment

AFP/Patrick Herzog
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From CNS: 

The Vatican’s Christmas tree and Nativity scene will feature unique designs and decorations highlighting several issues close to Pope Francis, including care for the environment, the sick and migrants.

An 82-foot spruce tree will be the centerpiece of the Vatican’s Christmas holidays, the governing office of Vatican City said.

The tree will be harvested Nov. 13 in the Lagorai forest near Scurelle in the northern province of Trent and will benefit from a unique gesture in keeping with the pope’s call for the care of creation: Elementary school students “will plant nearly 40 new spruce and larch seedlings in a nearby area where some trees affected by parasites fell in autumn,” the governing office said.

The Vatican added that the tree will be adorned with handmade ornaments featuring drawings made by children receiving treatment at several Italian hospitals.

Additional details from Vatican Radio:  

Measuring 19 metres in width (about 62 feet), this year’s giant Nativity scene will feature 17 statues dressed in traditional Maltese costumes as well as a replica of a traditional “Luzzu” Maltese boat.

In its communique, the Vatican City’s governing office said this boat not only represents tradition: fish and life but also, unfortunately the realities of migrants who in these same waters cross the sea on makeshift boats to Italy.

Pope Francis will receive in audience on December 9th shortly before the tree-lighting ceremony the designer of the Nativity scene, artist Manwel Grech, representatives from Trent and Malta as well as several children who designed the Christmas tree ornaments.

The lit-up tree will remain in St. Peter’s Square until the feast of the Lord’s Baptism on January 8th.

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