Pope Francis blessed a nativity scene on Saturday that was handmade by artisan craftsmen in Guatemala.
Guatemala’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mario Búcaro led a delegation that traveled from the Latin American country to be present for the nativity scene’s inauguration in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall on Dec. 3.
“It is the first time in history that our country presents a nativity scene in the Vatican, a beautiful work of sacred art, personally delivered to Pope Francis and, therefore, also a gift from the people of Guatemala in anticipation of Christmas,” Búcaro said.
The nativity scene was made by the combined effort of more than 30 artisans. It features the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, wearing large golden crowns, in a manger surrounded by angels.
At the nativity’s inauguration, Pope Francis explained that the nativity scene tells of “the birth of the Son of God who became man to be close to each of us.”
“In its genuine poverty, the nativity scene helps us to rediscover the true richness of Christmas,” the pope said.
“Simple and familiar, the nativity scene recalls a different Christmas from the consumerist and commercial one. … It reminds us how good it is for us to cherish moments of silence and prayer in our days, which are often overwhelmed by frenzy.”
In St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican has also displayed an outdoor wooden nativity scene hand carved from alpine cedar trees from Italy’s northeasternmost region, Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
Pope Francis recommended silent prayer and contemplation of the Christ child in a nativity scene as an intimate experience of God’s humility and tenderness.
“And if we really want to celebrate Christmas, let us rediscover through the nativity scene the surprise and wonder of littleness, the littleness of God, who made himself small, who was not born in the splendor of appearance, but in the poverty of a stable,” Pope Francis said.
The Guatemalan nativity scene will remain on display in Paul VI Hall until January 8, when the Church celebrates the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.