VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2011 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a delegation from Ukraine, the country which donated the Christmas tree decorating St. Peter’s Square this year. The tree, a spruce from the Zakarpattia region 30.5 metres high and decorated with 2,500 silver- and gold-coloured baubles, will be lit this evening in the presence of Ukrainian bishops. Other smaller trees have also been donated, which will be set up at other places in Vatican City State.
The Pope greeted the bishops accompanying the Ukrainian delegation: His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc; Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latins, and Bishop Milan Sasik C.M. of the eparchy of Mukachevo of the Byzantine rite, as well as members of the Orthodox Church led by the Archbishop of Poltava and Myrhorod.
This tree, said the Holy Father, is “a significant symbol of Christ’s Nativity because, with its evergreen boughs, it reminds us of enduring life. The spruce is also a sign of popular religiosity in your country, and of the Christian roots of your culture. My hope is that these roots may increasingly reinforce your national unity, favouring the promotion of authentic shared values. Over the centuries your nation has been a crossroads of different cultures, a meeting point for the spiritual richness of East and West. By tenaciously adhering to the values of the faith, may it continue to response to this unique vocation”.
The tree and nativity scene, Benedict XVI went on, “are elements of that typically Christmas atmosphere which is part our communities’ spiritual heritage; a climate impregnated with religiosity and family intimacy which we must seek to conserve, even in modern societies where consumerism and the search for material goods sometimes seem to prevail. Christmas is a Christian feast and its symbols are important references to the great mystery of the incarnation and birth of Jesus, which the liturgy constantly re-evokes. The Creator of the universe, by becoming a child, came among us to share our journey; He became small to enter the heart of man and renew it with His love. Let us prepare ourselves to welcome Him with faith”.