VATICAN CITY The Vatican on Friday lit its traditional St. Peter’s Square Christmas tree, which, this year, came as a gift from Ukraine.
Hundreds of bulbs glowed among the 2,500 silver-and gold-coloured baubles decorating the tree — a spruce from Ukraine’s southwestern Zakarpattia region.
The lighting ceremony was presided over by a delegation of Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox bishops.
Benedict, leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, described Ukraine — whose dominant religion is Orthodox Christianity — as having been “for centuries at the crossroads of different cultures, a meeting point for the spiritual richness of East and West.”
Eastern Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholic Christians split in 1054 — an event known as the Great Schism — but relations have improved in recent years with several meetings aimed at re-establishing unity.
Benedict’s predecessor, the Polish-born pope John Paul II, in 1982 introduced the northern and eastern European custom of Christmas trees to the Vatican.