There were a number of important talks today by the Holy Father – one to Italian Catholic Jurists (Pope to Catholic Jurists: To deny fundamental rights is to deny human dignity – Vatican News) and another to the members of the Italian Air Force at the conclusion today of the Lauretan Jubilee, a year dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto, patroness of airmen and women, that began December 10, 2020 (Pope to Italian Air Force: Fly high, you are peacemakers – Vatican News).

The Vatican Christmas tree was illuminated a short time ago and the nativity scene inaugurated and the feeling of Christmas is definitely in the air! The Pope received those who donated these gifts to the Vatican and spoke about the meaning of Christmas, as you will see in the news story below.


In this week’s interview, segment, I speak with Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Aloysius John about the 70th anniversary of that institution. That anniversary, in fact, is this very weekend, December 12th!

We look at the celebrations that have been taking place around the globe, at Caritas’past, it current work and its hopes for the future, as well as how the Covid pandemic has affected its work. Caritas is a confederation of national Caritas organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, Caritas Italia, etc. It has really grown from the initial 13 to 162 members today.

Caritas President is Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

Caritas website: Caritas – Ending poverty, promoting justice and restoring dignity

Here are some photos in the halls of the Caritas offices in Palazzo San Callisto in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood. They reflect the regions served by Caritas.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are serarching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


Pope Francis on Friday met delegations from Peru and Italy who donated the Nativity Scene and the giant Christmas tree in the centre of St. Peter’s Square this year. Another Italian group donated the crib in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall.

By Robin Gomes

Pope Francis on Friday exhorted Christians to keep clear of a fake, commercial Christmas, polluted by consumerism and indifference.  He made the remark to a group of 3 delegations who donated two Nativity Scenes and a Christmas tree to the Vatican this year.

This year’s Nativity Scene in St. Peter Square’s is a gift from Peru and comes from the Chopcca Nation, which comprises several communities located in the Huancavelica region in the highlands of the Andes mountains. The scene comprising more than 30 life-sized figurines in typical Andean costumes, are made of ceramic, maguey wood and fibreglass, and features alpacas, vicunas and the Andean condor, Peru’s national symbol.

Next to the crib, the majestic 28-meter-high red fir Christmas tree as well as its wooden decorations are from the Andalo forest of the northern Italian region of Trentino.

Another Nativity Scene has also been set up at the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall, where the Pope received the delegations.  It is a gift of the young people of the parish of San Bartolomeo in Gallio, in the Italian Diocese of Padua.

The crib – the universal call to salvation

Addressing the groups, Pope Francis reflected on the meaning of Christmas.  The characters in the crib made from materials and clothes characteristic of the area, he said, “represent the peoples of the Andes and symbolize the universal call to salvation”.  “Jesus, in fact, came to earth in the concreteness of a people to save every man and woman, of all cultures and nationalities. He made Himself small so that we could welcome Him and receive the gift of God’s tenderness.”

Christmas tree – rebirth

On the other hand, the fir tree is a sign of Christ, the tree of life, a tree to which man had no access because of sin, the Pope said.  With the birth of Christ, divine life joined human life.  Hence the Christmas tree evokes rebirth, the gift of God who unites Himself with man forever, who gives us His life. “The lights of the fir tree recall that of Jesus, the light of love that continues to shine in the nights of the world.”

Consumerism and indifference

The Holy Father invited Christians to keep to the true spirit of Christmas, urging, “Let us not allow it to be polluted by consumerism and indifference.” The symbols of the crib and the tree bring back the certainty that fills our hearts with the peace and joy that lives with us and gives us hope.  The tree and the crib introduce us to the typical Christmas atmosphere of tenderness, sharing and family intimacy mood. “Let us not experience a fake, commercial Christmas!” the Pope exhorted, adding, “Let us allow ourselves to be enveloped by God’s compassionate and tender closeness, and by the Christmas atmosphere that art, music, songs and traditions bring to our hearts.”

God with us

Thanking the group from Padua for their Christmas crib, Pope Francis said Christmas is the feast of trust and hope. That God is with us and trusts and never tires of forgiving us is the reason for hope.  He chooses to make His dwelling place with us and take on the realities where we spend our days. He is not one who is on high to dominate but who stoops down to become small and poor to serve. Hence, to resemble Him, one has to lower oneself in service.

At Christmas, God comes to be with us and asks us to take care of our brothers and sisters, especially the poorest, the weakest and the most fragile, whom the pandemic marginalizes even further, the Pope added.

(for photos and text: Pope: Let us not experience a fake, commercial Christmas – Vatican News)



L’Osservatore Romano shares the testimony that reveals the details of the story told by Pope Francis at the Angelus on October 24 about a father’s determination in prayer that his daughter be healed. If you sometimes have trouble praying or believing that God is listening and actually hears you, read this touching story: Healing on a summer night: When prayer opened heaven – Vatican News


Due to the ongoing pandemic and related health and safety measures, the Apostolic Penitentiary – in response to requests from bishops around the world – is once again extending opportunities to gain indulgences for the benefit of the faithful departed.

By Adriana Masotti

The Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary published a decree on Thursday providing for the possibility of obtaining plenary indulgences in favour of the faithful departed throughout the entire month of November.

The decree, signed by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, notes that the decision to once again extend the time period for gaining the indulgences was taken in response to “various pleas recently received from the various Sacred Pastors of the Church, due to the continuing state of the [Covid-19] pandemic.”

By means of the decree, the Apostolic Penitentiary “confirms and extends for the entire month of November 2021 all the spiritual benefits already granted on 22 October 2020” – that is, it allows the faithful to gain plenary indulgences for the souls in purgatory by visiting a cemetery on every day in November and praying for those who have died; normally, the indulgence is limited to the first eight days of the month.

A second plenary indulgence is also established for the day of the commemoration of the faithful departed, All Souls’ Day, November 2. The current decree allows the faithful to obtain that indulgence for the benefit of the deceased on any day of November, at their choice.

The Penitentiary notes in the decree that “from the renewed generosity of the Church, the faithful will certainly draw pious intentions and spiritual vigour to guide their lives according to the Gospel law, in filial communion and devotion to the Supreme Pontiff, the visible foundation and Pastor of the Catholic Church.”

The present Decree, like the one issued last year in the midst of the pandemic, is intended to meet the need to avoid gatherings, a potential cause of the spread of Covid-19, which still affects the world’s population to varying degrees.


The traditional St. Peter’s Square nativity scene is a gift this year from Peru’s Chopcca Nation, while the majestic red fir Christmas tree comes from a forest in the northern Italian region of Trentino. (JFL photo)

By Vatican News staff writer

Over 30 figurines created by five different artists belonging to the Chopcca Nation, make up the traditional nativity scene soon to be inaugurated in St. Peter’s Square

The Chopcca Nation comprises several communities that are located in the Huancavelica region in the high Andean region of Peru; their name refers to a character that represents a “common ancestor”, and oral sources and accounts date the First Nation to times prior to the arrival of the Incas.

Pope Francis had announced the Andean origin of the 2021 Nativity Scene last Sunday after the recitation of the Angelus when he greeted a group of Peruvian pilgrims who were celebrating the feast of Señor de Los Milagros.

A universal call to Salvation
With its representation of a cross-section of the life of the peoples of the Andes, a Holy See Press Office communiqué on Thursday explained that the Nativity Scene also celebrates 200 years from the independence of Peru, and symbolizes the universal call to Salvation.

The life-sized figurines representing the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the Three Kings and the shepherds are made of ceramic, maguey wood and fiberglass, and will be wearing traditional Chopcca costumes.

Baby Jesus will have the appearance of a “Hilipuska” child, so-called because he is wrapped in a typical Huancavelica blanket tied with a “chumpi” or woven belt. The Three Kings will be carrying traditional foods such as potatoes, quinoa, and other indigenous cereals, and they will be accompanied by llamas with the Peruvian flag on their backs. The birth of the Saviour will be announced by an angel playing the Wajrapuco, the traditional Andean wind instrument. Indigenous animals such as alpacas, vicunas, and the Andean condor, Peru’s national symbol, will also be featured.

The fir tree from Trentino
The 28-meter-high red fir tree that will be placed beside the Crib comes from a forest in Andalo, in the northern Italian Trentino region. The Press Office communiqué noted that the tree is from a Sustainable Forestry Management project and that the Trentino Delegation will also provide the wooden decorations. As always, the Vatican Governorate will take care of sustainable lighting with low energy consumption.

The traditional inauguration of the Nativity scene and the lighting of the Christmas tree are scheduled for Friday, 10 December.

The ceremony will be presided over by Archbishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State, and on the same day, the delegations of Huancavelica, Andalo and Gallio (an Italian town providing the Nativity Scene to be placed in the Paul VI Hall), will be received in audience by Pope Francis.

The realization of the Andean Nativity Scene was born from the collaboration between the Episcopal Conference of Peru, the Diocese of Huancavelica, the Regional Government, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Embassy of Peru to the Holy See




The Vatican Christmas tree was officially illuminated late this afternoon and the following slide show is composed of photos taken by EWTN’s own Daniel Ibanez:

The following story and photo about the nativity scene and tree is from


On Thursday, December 5, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello and Bishop Fernardo Vérgez Alzaga, respectively president and secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State, inaugurated the Nativity scene and the illumination of the Christmas tree in Saint Peter’s Square.

The crib comes from comes from Scurelle in the province of Trento, while the 26-meter (85 feet) high spruce tree comes from Rotzo in the province of Vicenza, Italy. The Nativity Scene, which has been made in the Trentino tradition, contains 20 life-size figures.

Both the tree and the crib are linked to the storm that struck many areas of the Triveneto region in Italy in October and November of 2018.

Meanwhile, the Pare di Conegliano Artistic Crib Group from the province of Treviso has been tasked with setting up the Nativity Scene inside Paul VI Hall. This crib will be full of references to the Veneto region and is a gift to Pope Francis.

The wooden statues are 120 centimeters high (47 inches) and are entirely carved by hand. The Holy Family will find hospitality in a nineteenth-century Gothic inspired structure.
The artistic lighting system will have low environmental impact thanks to adjustable LEDs in the light intensity.

Like the tree and the crib in St. Peter’s Square, the crib in the Paul VI Hall will remain on display until January 12, 2020.


Shortly I will leave for St. Peter’s Square for the lighting of the Christmas tree, the unveiling of the Nativity scene and the inauguration of the new lights for St. Peter’s Dome and façade. I will take pictures and videos and post those as soon as humanly possible. In the meantime, here’s a look at the Vatican’s tradition of trees and “presepi” or Nativity scenes.


This last weekend before Christmas, I have a real treat during what is normally the interview segment! I read Pope St. John Paul’s 1994 Christmas Message to Children! And, as I say in my introduction, if you are a child – or a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle and have small children near you – this is for you! It is just wonderful!

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


Pilgrims visiting St Peter’s Square the afternoon of this final Friday of Advent will be treated to a wonderful spectacle. Late this afternoon, the Vatican’s Christmas tree, placed near the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square will be lit and the nearby Nativity Scene unveiled. In addition, 315 clusters of LED lights placed around the dome and façade of St. Peter’s Basilica will be inaugurated, giving the world’s most famous basilica a stunning new look!

We’ll take a look at the Vatican’s Christmas traditions but first start with Pope Francis’ meeting this morning with religious and civil authorities from the Italian cities of Verona in northern Italy and Catanzaro in Calabria, southern Italy, to thank them for, respectively, the Nativity scene and the Christmas tree they have donated for St Peter’s Square.

He told his guests that the life-size crib figures, given by Verona’s Arena Foundation, and the giant fir tree from Calabria will be admired by many pilgrims coming to the Vatican from all corners of the globe.

Francis said that, “the Nativity scene and Christmas tree are evocative festive symbols very dear to our Christian families: they recall the mystery of the Incarnation, the only begotten Son of God, made flesh in order to save us, and the light that Jesus has brought to the world through His birth. But the creche and the tree touch the hearts of all, as they speak of fraternity, intimacy and friendship, calling to people of our time to rediscover the beauty of simplicity, sharing and solidarity. They are an invitation to unity, harmony and peace; an invitation to make room, in our personal and social life, for God, Who 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.”

The Holy Father said Christmas trees and Nativity scenes have permeated and enriched the culture, literature, music and art of the different Italian regions and remain an important legacy for future generations.

It was St. John Paul II who, in 1982, inaugurated the Vatican tradition of placing a tree and a Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square. Often an Italian region or European country that donated the large tree for the square also donated smaller ones to be placed in various offices of the Roman Curia and rooms of the Apostolic Palace.

This 2014 Christmas tree was donated by the southern Italian region of Calabria, which Pope Francis visited in June of this year. It is 70 years old, 80 feet tall, weighs eight tons and has what is known as a twin trunk, that is to say that two separate trunks have fused together to form a single tree trunk. This feature is also used symbolically, to show that man is never alone on his journey through this life, but is always joined by the Lord.

The Nativity scene is titled, “The Nativity Scene in Opera,” and is composed of 25 life-size terracotta statues, a gift from the “Verona for the Arena” Foundation. The scene is inspired by the operatic works for which the city is known, with the intention of promoting Italian opera throughout the world. The basis for the title of the display is a play on the double meaning of the word “opera” in Italian: it is “at work”, in the sense that its message is universal and active, and also based on the material used to stage the operatic work “The Elixir of Love” by Gaetano Donizetti.