Christmas comes to Vatican with tree lighting
VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Christmas season kicked off on Friday at the Vatican with the traditional lighting of the tree in St Peter's Square - and a reminder from the pope about what happened when the "lights" of God were turned off in past atheistic regimes.
Pope Benedict XVI, 85, occasionally refers to his experiences as a devout young Catholic in Nazi Germany in pressing his case for Europe to recover its Christian heritage and reassert its faith in everyday life.
In comments to a delegation from Italy's south-central Molise region, which donated the Vatican's main Christmas tree this year, Benedict said the tree lights that were being turned on at a ceremony early Friday evening represented "divine light".
"And when in the past they tried to stamp out the light of God to instead turn on illusory and misleading glows, there were seasons of tragic violence against man," he said. "And this is because when they tried to cancel God's name from the pages of history, the result was a distortion, where even the most noble and beautiful words, like 'freedom', 'common good' and 'justice'... lost their true meaning."