Pope defends crib as "part of our culture"
Pope John Paul II strongly defended the Christian tradition of erecting cribs in schools and public places, describing it as "part of our culture".
The comments follow a row after state schools in a region of overwhelmingly Catholic Italy decided not to put up cribs so as not to offend non-Christian children and their families.
"Small or big, simple or elaborate, the crib constitutes a familiar and ever expressive representation of Christmas," the Holy Father told thousands of pilgrims at yesterday's angelus in St Peter's Square.
"It is an element of our culture and of art, but above all a sign of faith in God, who at Bethlehem came and dwelt amongst us."
Hundreds of children were in St Peter's Square for the annual papal blessing of figurines which are to be used in the cribs.
A political row has broken out in Italy after teachers in the northern Veneto region announced their intention not to erect cribs in schools this year so as to reflect a more pluralist society.
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13 Dec 2004