The Vatican announced the details of the 2020 edition of the annual Christmas display in St. Peter’s Square, intended to be a sign of hope and faith in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
“This year, even more than usual, the setting up of the traditional space dedicated to Christmas in St. Peter’s Square aims to be a sign of hope and faith for the whole world,” said a press release from the Vatican City Governorate.
The Christmas display “wants to express the certainty that Jesus comes among his people to save and console them,” it said, “an important message in this difficult time due to the COVID-19 health emergency.”
The unveiling of the nativity scene and lighting of the Christmas tree will take place Dec. 11. Both will be displayed until Jan. 10, 2021, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
This year’s tree has been donated by the city of Kočevje in southeast Slovenia. The Picea abies, or Norway spruce, is nearly 92 feet tall.
The Christmas scene for 2020 will be the “monumental Nativity scene of the Castelli,” consisting of larger than life-size ceramic statues made by teachers and alumni of an art institute in the Italian region of Abruzzo.
The nativity set, made in the 1960s and 1970s, “not only represents a cultural symbol for the whole of Abruzzo, but is also considered an object of contemporary art that has its roots in the traditional processing of castellana ceramics,” the Vatican press release said.
Only a few works from the fragile 54-piece set will be displayed in St. Peter’s Square. The scene will include Mary, Joseph, the Child Jesus, the three Magi, and an angel, whose “location above the Holy Family is meant to symbolize its protection over the Savior, Mary and Joseph,” the governorate said.
Pope John Paul II started the tradition of displaying a Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square in 1982.
Pope Francis last year wrote a letter about the meaning and importance of nativity scenes, calling for this “wonderful sign” to be more widely displayed in family homes and public places throughout the world.
“The enchanting image of the Christmas crèche, so dear to the Christian people, never ceases to arouse amazement and wonder. The depiction of Jesus’ birth is itself a simple and joyful proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God,” Pope Francis wrote in the apostolic letter “Admirabile signum,” meaning “A wonderful sign” in Latin.