As Vatican Christmas tree goes up, pope's Christmas schedule released: VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As a towering spruce tree was erected in St. Peter's Square, the Vatican released Pope Francis' liturgy schedule for Advent, Christmas and the month of January.
The tradition of placing a Christmas Tree as well as the life-size Nativity Scene in Saint Peter's Square started in 1982 during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, when the Polish-born Pope introduced the northern European symbol of Christmas spirit. The tradition of erecting a Christmas Tree was celebrated in northern Europe and in Poland, Pope John Paul II's country of origin, but not in the Vatican at the time.
The first tree came from Italy. Since then, the offering of the Christmas Tree to the Pope has become an honour, and each year the Vatican accepts a tree donated by a different European country or region.
The Christmas tree is installed in the centre of Saint Peter's Square, together with a life-size nativity scene that is unveiled on Christmas Eve. The nativity scene has seventeen life-size statues. Of these, nine are the original figures donated in 1842 by Saint Vincent Pallotti for the nativity scene in the Roman church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, and the other eight figures were added over the course of the years. In 2006 the Italian province of Trentino, and the local council of a village of Teserohave provided a further thirteen sculpted wooden figures and animals, as well as household utensils for the depiction of daily life.
-- The pope will celebrate Christmas Mass at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 24 in St. Peter's Basilica.
-- Christmas blessing "urbi et orbi" noon Dec. 25
-- Dec. 31 Evening Prayer, "Te Deum" in thanksgiving for the year that is ending.
-- Morning Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Jan. 1, the World Day of Prayer for Peace and the feast of Mary, Mother of God.
-- On Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany Mass in the Sistine Chapel and baptize several babies.
-- Pope Francis will preside over an ecumenical evening prayer service Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The service concludes the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.