Vatican inaugurates nativity scene that reflects the first one in history

December 9 at the Vatican saw the inauguration of the Christmas tree and nativity scene in St. Peter's Square. This year, both come from Italy. The day began with Pope Francis meeting with the donors who's generosity made these works possible.

"In front of every manger, even those made in our homes, we relive what happened in Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago," Pope Francis said. "And this should awaken in us a longing for silence and prayer in our often hectic daily lives. Silence, so that we can listen to what Jesus is telling us from that singular 'chair' that is the manger."

At the same time, the pope did not hide the fact that, this year, the thought of Christmas may be accompanied with sadness.

"As we contemplate Jesus—God became man, small, poor, helpless—we cannot help but think of the tragedy being experienced by the people of the Holy Land," he said. "We express our closeness and spiritual support to these brothers and sisters of ours, especially the children and their parents. They are paying the real bill for the war."

The inauguration of the Christmas tree and nativity scene was presided over by the Spanish Cardinal Fernando Vérgez and Sister Raffaella Petrini, President and Secretary General of the Governorate of the Vatican City State.

The nativity scene comes from the Diocese of Rieti, Italy, and recalls the first one in history that St. Francis made in that region after visiting the Holy Land 800 years ago.

The figures are life-size and dressed in 13th century costumes. There is also a special feature: it exhibits St. Francis and other Franciscans. On Christmas, the child Jesus will be placed in the arms of the saint of Assisi.

The 80-foot tall tree from the Piedmont region of Italy lit up St. Peter's Square.

At the end of the event, the Vatican provided a dinner for people in need. It was held under the colonnade in the light of the new Christmas tree and nativity scene.