Pope explains symbolism of Christmas tree
During his Angelus audience on Sunday, Pope John Paul II discussed the symbolism of the Christmas season, focusing on the Christmas tree as "an ancient custom that exalts the value of life".
Catholic World News reports that the Holy Father said that the life symbolism is derived from the fact that the evergreen tree remains unchanged through the harshness of winter.
When gifts are arranged under the tree, he said, it because a symbol of "the tree of life, a figure of Christ, God's greatest gift to all men."
He made a point of saying that the gifts exchanged at Christmas should not be purely material and commercial.
The "tree of life," he said, points the way toward an exchange of spiritual goods: of brotherhood and love.
The Pope observed, before making his remarks on the Christmas tree, that the most important symbol of the season is the Christmas crib, about which he spoke at his previous Sunday public audience. His remarks on these symbols come at a time when the European nations, and Australian cities including Melbourne and Sydney, are caught up in debates about the display of Christian symbols in public places.
The Archdiocese of Melbourne is "strongly supporting" a protest this afternoon against the Melbourne City Council's de-emphasis of Christian symbols in its celebration of Christmas. A statement yesterday said the 4:30 pm "witness" outside Melbourne Town Hall is to "counteract the increasing tendency of 'political correctness' to sway decision making when it comes to matters between Church and State".
Pope explains symbolism of Christmas tree (Catholic World News 20/12/04)
Bah humbug! Melbourne City Council have got the Reason for the Season all wrong! (Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne 20/12/04)
Blessing of a Christmas Tree (US Conference of Catholic Bishops) - PDF
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Pope receives Christmas tree during general audience (CathNews 15/12/04)
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21 Dec 2004