Vatican City, 13 December 2013 (VIS) – “An 'international' fir tree” was how the Holy Father defined the Christmas tree which will adorn St. Peter's Square during the festive season. Originating from close to the border between Germany and the Czech Republic, it will be lit this afternoon.

The large fir tree and other smaller trees destined for other locations within Vatican City were donated by the community of Waldmunchen, Germany, located just eighteen kilometres from the border with the Czech Republic. In his address to members of the community whom he received in audience today, Pope Francis spoke about the “spiritual closeness and friendship that unites all of Germany, and particularly Bavaria, with the Holy See, following the Christian tradition that has rendered fruitful the culture, literature and art of this nation, and of Europe as a whole”.

The tree will be admired by many Romans, pilgrims and tourists who attend St. Peter's Square during the period of Advent, in which “there resounds in every place the joyful proclamation of the angel to the shepherds of Bethlehem … who were surrounded by a great light. Even today, Jesus continues to dissipate the shadows of error and sin, to bring to humanity the joy of the brilliant divine light, of which the Christmas tree is a sign and a memory. May we let ourselves be surrounded by the light of truth, so that the joy of the gospel may fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus”.

The Holy Father wished a happy Christmas to the representatives of the community of Waldmunchen, as well as their families and compatriots, and asked them to pray for him.

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