Beginning to Look Like Christmas at St. Peter's

Cardinal to Preside at Official Tree Lighting

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The 85-foot Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square, decorated with more than 2,000 ornaments, will be officially lit Friday.

Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, will preside at the official lighting ceremony. Civil and religious authorities from the region of Bolzano in northern Italy, which donated this year's tree, will attend.

The 140-year-old, 3-ton fir stands beside the Nativity scene in the square, which is still under construction.

The Nativity scene, which will be unveiled on Christmas Eve, has 17 life-size statues. Of these, nine are the original figures donated by St. Vincent Pallotti for the Nativity scene in the Roman Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle in 1842. The other eight figures were added over the years. As in 2006, the Italian province of Trento has provided more sculpted wooden figures and animals, as well as household utensils for the depiction of daily life.

From Dec. 19 to Feb. 2, Paul VI Hall will also be adorned with a tree and a Nativity scene designed by Mexican artists. The figures of the Nativity scene are in the Novo Hispanic Baroque style, while the tree decorations are the work of Mexican traditional craftsmen. The Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square will also include four Mexican Baroque angels.

This initiative, titled "Mexican Christmas in the Vatican," has been organized to mark the 15th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See. The display will be inaugurated by Benedict XVI on Dec. 19.