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Pope Francis: to donors of tree and nativity scene, “migrants on boats remind us of Jesus’ painful experience”

“I am pleased to welcome you and to express you my gratitude on the occasion of the inauguration of the Christmas tree and nativity scene which will be admired in St Peter’s Square by pilgrims from all over the world during Advent and the Christmas holidays”. Pope Francis used these words to thank the Bishops and the Government of Malta for donating and setting up the nativity scene, and the Lagorai Forest Association for donating the “giant spruce tree and the other trees destined to other venues in the Vatican”. As he received the delegations from Malta and from the Trentino Region in the Paul VI Hall, thanking them for the gift of the nativity scene and of the Christmas tree set up in St Peter’s Square which will be inaugurated this afternoon at 4.30pm, Pope Francis addressed a “special thought” to the children who had decorated the tree with the support of the “Lene Thun Foundation” which runs ceramic therapy workshops in various hospitals. “The multi-coloured decorations you have created represent the values of life, love and peace that Christ’s Christmas proposes to us anew each year”, the Pope said. “The nativity scene set up in St Peter’s Square by artist Gozo Manwel Grech is a replica of a Maltese landscape; it also features the traditional Maltese Cross and the ‘Luzzu’, a typical Maltese boat, which reminds us of the sad and tragic realities of migrants who sail on makeshifts boats to Italy”. “The painful experience of these brothers and sisters reminds us of that of Baby Jesus, who could not find shelter, was born in a stable in Bethlehem and was later brought to Egypt to escape Herod’s threat. Those who visit this nativity scene will be invited to rediscover its symbolic value, which is a message of fraternity and sharing, of welcome and solidarity”.

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