Christmastime is a season of joy within the Christian liturgical calendar ― but for many across the world, the last month of 2016 will also hold moments of great sorrow and suffering.
The Vatican paid tribute to the plight of refugees in its Christmas nativity scene in Saint Peter’s square. Tucked into the 55-foot-wide Nativity is a luzzu, a traditional Maltese fishing boat donated by the government and Archdiocese of Malta.
Although the number of migrants arriving in Malta by boat has decreased in recent years, for Pope Francis, the boat was a reminder of “the sad and tragic reality of migrants on boats making their way toward Italy."
While meeting with the Nativity’s donors on Friday, the pope said that he hoped those who visited St. Peter’s Square this Christmas would remember the message of “fraternity, sharing, welcoming and solidarity” at the heart of the nativity scene. He also recalled that Jesus himself was a refugee, a point he’s used in the past to express sympathy for the pain of refugees.
“In the painful experience of these brothers and sisters, we revisit that (experience) of baby Jesus, who at the time of his birth did not find accommodation and was born in a grotto in Bethlehem and then was brought to Egypt to escape Herod’s threat,” the pope said on Friday, according to Crux.
Along with the boat, the scene featured 17 figures dressed in traditional Maltese clothes. In addition, the nativity included a spire and rubble from St. Benedict Basilica, a church that was damaged in earthquakes that hit central Italy earlier this year.
Pope Francis inaugurated and lit up the St. Peter’s Square Nativity scene and Christmas tree on Friday.