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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
I am happy to welcome all of you who are giving me your beautiful Christmas tree from Luson. I greet you all from my heart, beginning with Bishop Karl Golser, whom I thank for the affectionate words he addressed to me. Along with him, I greet the priests, religious, parish counselors and all the faithful of the cities, towns and valleys of your beautiful land, which is profoundly molded by the faith. I greet the president of the province that includes South Tyrol and the mayor of the city of Bressanone. I thank them for the beautiful words they addressed to me, which have truly transmitted to me the sensation of being at home in South Tyrol and of being surrounded and supported by their friendship.
I address a greeting also to the representatives of the city of Bressanone and of the municipality of Luson, of the circle of the Schutzen of Bressanone and of the community of the district of Valle Isarco. I address a particular "Grüß Gott" [a German greeting loosely translated as "May God greet you"] to the mayor of Natz-Schabs, who will confer on me honorary citizenship, in memory of my beloved grandmother on my mother's side, who was born in Raas, a fraction of that municipality. I address a cordial "Vergelt's Gott" [German for God bless you] for this lovely sign of your affection! In my greeting I also include all the other representatives of public life in addition to you all, that with your traditional dress, thought-provoking music and regional specialties have come to Rome to make the traditions of your splendid land known.
I know that this particular event has awakened interest and involved the whole population of the region. Above all, as I have learned, the women of Bressanone have worked in the preparation of the straw stars which are typical Christmas decorations of the German-speaking area. I thank all of you for the particular gift of this Norway Spruce, as well as for all the other Christmas trees, which will decorate the Apostolic Palace and the area of the Vatican, and which also make me feel the presence of South Tyrol in my apartment. May this generous initiative exhort all the inhabitants of South Tyrol to give witness in their own environment of the values of life, of love and of peace that, every year, Christmas commends to us.
This year the spruce tree in St. Peter's Square comes from picturesque Luson, not far from the Sass of Putia of the immense Dolomites. The extraordinary beauty of this scenery invites us to recognize the greatness of our Creator, whose love shines incessantly in his wonderful work of nature, also to illuminate man's heart and fill it with peace and joy.
Tonight, at the end of the ceremony of the official giving of the tree, in the presence of Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, the lights adorning the tree will be lit. The tree, taken from an altitude of almost 1,500 meters [4,921 feet] and cut without causing damage to the life of the forest, will remain next to the Nativity until the end of the Christmas celebrations, and will be admired by the numerous pilgrims and tourists from all parts of the world, as significant symbol of the light of Christ, which he brought to humanity with his birth. He, the Messiah, became man and came into our midst, to dissipate the darkness of error and sin, carrying out "in an unsurpassable way the condescension of God" ("Verbum Domini," No. 11). To have faith in him means to receive in oneself the light that is Christ Jesus.
The Christmas tree enriches the symbolic value of the nativity scene, which is a message of fraternity and friendship; an invitation to unity and peace, an invitation to make room, in our life and in society, for God, who offers us his omnipotent love through the fragile figure of a Child, because he wants us to respond freely to his love with our own love. Therefore, the nativity scene and the tree bring a message of hope and love, and help to create the propitious climate to live, in the correct spiritual and religious dimension, the mystery of the birth of the Redeemer.
Dear friends, I wish from my heart to all those present and to your fellow countrymen a Christmas of recollection and tranquility. I assure you that, next to the nativity scene, I will pray for you, for your families and for all persons in your region, and I impart to all the apostolic blessing.
A Holy Christmas to all!
[Translation by ZENIT]