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Vatican City, Dec 19, 2014 / 05:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The 83-foot Italian tree in St. Peter's Square was lit for the first time this season at the unveiling of the Vatican's nativity scene, which Pope Francis called a sign of “light, hope and love” for the world.

The nativity scene and the Christmas tree “are an invitation to unity, harmony and peace; an invitation to make room, in our personal and social life, for God,” the Pope said in a Dec. 19 audience with delegates of the Italian regions who donated the decorations.

In the birth of Jesus we see that God “does not come with arrogance, imposing His power, but instead offers His omnipotent love through the fragile figure of a Child. The creche and the tree therefore bring a message of light, hope and love,” he said.

Donated to the Vatican by the southern Italian region of Calabria, where Pope Francis visited in June, this year's tree is 70 years old, stands 83.6 feet tall and weighs 8 tons.

It was lit for the first time this season during a special “Lighting Ceremony” held in St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 19.

A unique characteristic of the tree is the fact that it has what is called a “twin trunk,” in which two separate trunks have been fused together into one. It is a symbolic feature, and is often used to show that man is never alone on his journey, but is always accompanied by the Lord.

The scene, entitled “The Nativity scene in Opera,” contains figures that were donated by the “Verona for the Arena” foundation, and draw their inspiration from famous opera productions staged in the Verona Opera Arena, particularly Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera “The Elixir of Love.”

With the emphasis on opera, the Nativity’s title and design are meant to be a play on the two meanings of the Italian word “opera,” which can refer to either a theater production or the verb “to work.”

Given this background, the “Nativity scene in Opera” is also meant to emphasize the work that God did through the birth of his son, Jesus Christ.

In his audience with representatives of the regions who donated the Nativity and the tree, Pope Francis praised them for “enriching” their culture with literature, art and music, saying that they are a valuable heritage for future generations.

“The Nativity and the Christmas tree are evocative festive symbols very dear to our Christian families,” he said, noting how they remind us of Christ’s incarnation, who was made flesh in order to save us, as well as the light Jesus brings to the world through his birth.

They are symbols that touch the hearts of all, he said, through their message of fraternity, intimacy and friendship.

But they also serve as a calling “(for the) people of our time to rediscover the beauty of simplicity, sharing and solidarity,” the Roman Pontiff observed, saying that the tree and the Nativity are an invitation to create peace and harmony by allowing God to enter into our lives.

He recalled how Jesus, as the Messiah, became man and lived among us in order to cast out the darkness of sin and error, and to bring his own divine light to humanity.

“Jesus Himself says of Himself: 'I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life,'” the pontiff said, and encouraged all to follow him, and to bring his light to others.

“Let us follow Him, the true light, so as not to lose our way and in turn to reflect light and warmth on those who go through moments of difficulty and inner darkness.”

Vatican City, Dec 19, 2014 / 09:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis cautioned Christians against an egoism that excludes the need for God in his homily at Mass on Friday, saying this attitude renders our lives sterile and prevents the Church from bearing fruit.

“This too makes me think of our mother Church and of so much sterility within our Mother Church,” the Pope told those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse chapel Dec. 19.

He noted that when too much emphasis is placed on our ability to choose to be good by following the commandments unaided by grace, “that pelagianism that all of us carry within our bones” grows, and the Church “becomes sterile.”

The roots of this sterile pelagianism – the belief that original sin did not damage human nature, and that man is still able to choose the good without divine assistance – come “from egoism (and) from power,” the Roman Pontiff continued, lamenting that there is “so much sterility within the people of God.”

Pope Francis centered his reflections on the day’s readings taken from Judges and the Gospel of Luke, which recount the birth of Samson and the announcement of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist.

He referred to how both women had been infertile, but miraculously received children through the intervention of God.

Since there are so many stories recounted in the Bible of women who found themselves in the same situation, it’s obvious that the Church wants us to reflect on the topic of sterility, the Pope said.

“From sterility, the Lord is able to restart a new lineage, a new life. And that is the message of today: when humanity is exhausted and can no longer go forward, grace comes, the Son comes and Salvation comes. And that exhausted Creation gives way to a new creation,” the Roman Pontiff continued.

With Christmas only a few days away, the message we get from these readings is about a second, new creation that comes when the world is exhausted, he said.

The Bishop of Rome pointed out how both Elizabeth and the mother of Samson were able to give birth because of the action of the Holy Spirit. The message this sends, he said, is that we must be open to God because there is nothing we can do on our own.

“This makes me think of our mother Church and of so much sterility within our Mother Church,” the Pope said, and noted that when she thinks she can act without God, “(the Church) believes she is capable of giving birth, (but) no, she can’t!”

Only when the Church opens to the newness of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit is she able to become a mother, he observed, noting that whenever she tells herself it is impossible to go on, the Holy Spirit comes to her aid.

“When the Church believes she can do everything, that she can take charge of the consciences of the people, walk along the road of the Pharisees, of the Sadducees, along the road of hypocrisy, the Church is sterile,” he said, and encouraged those present to pray for the Church.

He prayed that during the season of Christmas, the Church would be open to the gift of God, and that she would let herself “be surprised” by the Holy Spirit so that she can become a mother.

“Many times I think that in some places the Church is more like an entrepreneur than a mother,” the Roman Pontiff noted, and concluded by praying that the Lord would give the Church the “grace of fertility,” so that she can become a mother who follows the example of Mary.

Vatican City, Dec 19, 2014 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican's committee on communications has finished its third round of visits to Vatican media branches, and will likely discuss the outcomes of the visits in their next meeting, due to take place in January.

The committee has completed its rounds of visits to Vatican media branches, and also started collecting opinions and suggestions from journalists and Catholic agencies who deal often with Vatican news.

With the wish to improve the system of the delivery of news and to rationalize expenses, the members of the committe made an on-site visit to the Holy See press office Dec. 17.

According to a source who took part in the meetings, “the committee proved to be very attentive to the needs of the Holy See press office, and tried to understand how the work of the Holy See press office may be enhanced.”

“Unlike the members of the Pontifical Commission of Reference for the Economic and Administrative Structure of the Holy See/Vatican City State (known with the Italian acronym of COSEA), the committee showed that cutting expenses is not their sole desire, but that that before all else they want to find an effective way of sharing information from the Vatican,” the source maintained.

During the next meeting, in January, the members of the committee will likely discuss the outcomes of their visit, and will start analyzing in-depth the responses of communication experts and journalists on their desk.

In the offing, there is the need for a comprehensive reform of  Vatican media, with a possible unification of the three major Vatican media outlets – Vatican Radio, Vatican Television, and L’Osservatore Romano – under a single digital platform.

Until now, the Vatican outlets have depended directly on the Vatican State Secretariat, but some of the proposals for Curia reform on the desk of the members of the Council of Cardinals suggest the creation of an ‘ad hoc’ Secretariat for Communications within the Roman Curia.

The notion of the establishment of a third Secretariat has however been seemingly discarded, while the idea of putting all communications under the Pontifical Council for Social Communications remains on the table.

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