It was only fitting.
Last week Pope Benedict XVI got to light that great Christmas tree, the “world’s largest” tree, on the Italian hillside….
So it was good that an excited little boy got to press the button to light the towering 82-foot Ukrainian spruce that marks the 2011 Christmas season at the Vatican.
And what a celebration it was—especially for the people of Ukraine, who had given this great 60-year-old tree to the Holy Father. They crowded into St. Peter’s Square, dressed in their national colors and carrying Christmas stars.
Earlier in the day, the Holy Father had received a delegation from Ukraine and had expressed his appreciation for the gift. “A Christmas tree,” he said, “is a significant symbol of Christ’s Nativity because, with its evergreen boughs, it reminds us of enduring life.”
“Over the centuries,” he continued, “Ukraine has been a crossroads of different cultures, a meeting point for the spiritual richness of East and West. By tenaciously adhering to the values of the faith, may it continue to respond to this unique vocation.”
At the tree lighting ceremony Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Governatorate of Vatican City State, welcomed the leaders of the Church in Ukraine: His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc; Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latins, and Bishop Milan Sasik C.M. of the eparchy of Mukachevo of the Byzantine rite, as well as members of the Orthodox Church led by the Archbishop of Poltava and Myrhorod.
And then Archbishop Bertello was joined at the podium by the young boy, who had the honor of lighting the Vatican’s Christmas tree. Placed near the central obelisk in St. Peter’s Square, the tree is adorned with 2,500 gold and silver baubles. Kinda makes you think of this jolly tune from “Rudolph the Reindeer”—doesn’t it?