110-Year-Old Christmas Tree Graces Square

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square was illuminated, a gift this year from the Val d'Aosta region of northern Italy.



The fir, almost 30 meters (100 feet) high and 110 years old, is a thanksgiving gift from this autonomous region, which has welcomed John Paul II for seven of his summer holidays.

Val d'Aosta sent the Pope more than 20 firs, which are decorating various areas of the Vatican this Christmas.

One of these trees adorned Paul VI Hall today, site of the general audience. A Nativity scene made in the same region was also on display.

Three hundred citizens of Val d'Aosta came to Rome to give the Pope his gift. They were accompanied by Carlo Perrin, president of the region, and by their bishop, Giuseppe Anfossi.

"I am very grateful to all those who made this Christmas gift possible, which will remind visitors and pilgrims of the birth of Jesus, light of the world," the Holy Father said at the end of the audience when greeting his guests.

Later, at sundown on a particularly cold day in Rome, U.S. Cardinal Edmund Szoka, head of the commission that governs Vatican City, presided at the ceremony of illumination of the tree.