Slovenian Christmas tree in St Peter's Square lit
Vatican City, 11 December - A 30-metre spruce tree from Slovenia came aglow with Christmas lights in St Peter's Square in the Vatican on Friday with Foreign Minister Anže Logar declaring the tree was Slovenia's gift in gratitude for the Holy See's role as the country gained independence almost 30 years ago.
"From the primary forest to the Vatican," the minister said in his address to the lighting ceremony, referring to the fact that the 75-year-old tree came from the primary forest of Kočevje in south of Slovenia.
Logar noted that the Holy See was among the first to officially recognise Slovenia's independence, and that Pope John Paul II had supported Slovenia's efforts even before that. The country will mark the 30th anniversary of independence next year.
He also recalled the then Archbishop Alojzij Šuštar and Slovenia's first Ambassador to the Holy See Štefan Falež, who were an important tie between Slovenia and the Vatican during the independence era.
He said the Slovenian Christmas tree in the heart of Christianity was a message of peace as well as an important contribution to making Slovenia known worldwide.
Archbishop of Maribor Alojzij Cvikl noted that Slovenia was observing this year the 30th anniversary of the plebiscite in which the Slovenian nation opted for independence.
He said the Christmas three was from a region that was filled with the blood of martyrs in the wake of the Second World War, a reference to post-war summary killings in the Kočevski Rog area. However, he said the tree was a sign of God's love, which is eternal and always green.
The lights on the Christmas tree, adorned with traditional Slovenian decorations made of straw and wood shavings, were lit by Ivan Rebernik, a former Slovenian ambassador to the Holy See.
This is the second time that Slovenia has donated the Vatican a Christmas tree after 1996.
Slovenia has also donated 42 smaller spruce and fir trees to decorate the Vatican, both indoors and in the offices. The decorations for the trees were made by 400 volunteers.
Before the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, a Nativity Scene from the city of Castelli was inaugurated. The scene, made of ceramics, is a donation of the Italian Teramo-Atri Diocese.
Minister Logar said the Christmas tree had not come without Slovenian traditional delicacies such as the Potica cake and the Kranjska Klobasa sausage, which will be given to the homeless in Rome in keeping the credo of Pope Francis.
The tree lighting ceremony was accompanied by a cultural event that was pre-recorded and screened on large screens in St Peter's Square due to the Covid-pandemic.
Recorded by TV Slovenija, the programme showed Slovenia's sights and featured Slovenian singers Marko Fink, Sabina Cvilak, Alfi Nipič and Nuška Drašček, as well as accordion player Marko Hatlak. It also featured bell ringers from the basilica in Brezje.