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Monday, December 20, 2004


VATICAN CITY, DEC 19, 2004 (VIS) - Pope John Paul, addressing the faithful in St. Peter's Square who came to pray the Angelus with him, said that "Christmas, the celebration that is perhaps dearest to popular tradition, is rich in symbols linked to different cultures. The most important is certainly the nativity scene, as I underscored last week."

  "Next to the nativity scene, such as we find here in St. Peter's Square," the Pope continued, "we find the traditional Christmas tree. This is also an ancient custom that exalts the value of life because during winter, the evergreen fir becomes a sign of life that does not die. Christmas gifts are usually placed under the Christmas tree. The symbol thus becomes eloquent even in a typically Christian sense: it reminds us of the 'tree of life', a figure of Christ, God's supreme gift to all of mankind."

  John Paul II pointed out that "the message of the Christmas tree is thus that life is 'evergreen' if one makes a gift, not of material things, but of oneself: in friendship and sincere affection, in fraternal help and in pardon, in time shared and in reciprocal listening."

  After the Angelus, the Pope, speaking Russian, welcomed some children from Beslan, North Ossetia who are guests with some of their relatives of the Discalzed Carmelites of Trento. "Dear ones, may the good that you are receiving from so many friends help you overcome the wounds caused by the terrible experience in the past." The Pope was referring to the September assault by terrorists on a school in Beslan where more than 300 people, mostly school children, died.

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