Pope Emeritus Makes Rare Appearance to Thank Visiting Bavarians
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has made a rare public appearance to thank civil and ecclesiastical authorities from Bavaria for donating this year’s Vatican Christmas tree.
Speaking to the dignitaries outside his Mater Ecclesiae residence in the Vatican on Friday (see video here), Benedict said the lighting of the 82 foot spruce represents the light of God’s friendship to mankind which, he stressed, was especially important at this time.
“The tree tells us that God is our friend and that we are therefore friends and siblings with each other,” he said, according to Vatican Radio's German edition. “So this is a message that we need right now when there is such a threat of hostility and terror.”
He was also presented with a book by a local poet, some “praline sausage”, and a gift from the bakery where Joseph Ratzinger’s mother used to work.
Here below is my translation of his brief remarks which he gave after being invited by his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, to say a few words.
“Dear Minister, dear district administrators, mayors: thank you very much for this meeting and for everything you do for us at this moment. I find it so beautiful that from the faith and from friendship you bring this Christmas tree to Rome. I think it is the third time that a tree has come from the diocese of Regensburg. I didn’t know there were sacred mountains there. 700 meters is after all quite a height. We're also on a hill here but one close to a hundred meters, or maybe not even that, but still!”
After a brief pause, Benedict continued:
"I am delighted that you bring the path of friendship from north to south in this way and bring that friendship to the world. Because this tree lights up not only St. Peter's Square in Rome, but illuminates the wider world, is seen by all people and is a sign of light, friendship, reconciliation and goodness. The tree tells us that God is our friend and that we are therefore friends and siblings with each other. So this is a message that we need right now when there is such a threat of hostility and terror. All the more we stand in friendship to bring light into the world. I thank you that you take this witness and represent Bavaria as a place of goodness, warmth and humanity, born out of the faith. I am delighted that this faith is so alive and present.
I wish you a blessed time here in Rome. A very joyful Christmas and New Year. I wish you good health! And I cordially thank you for the rich gifts that leave us with a real taste of Bavaria. I greet the Prime Minister and all of Bavaria! God bless you!"
The mayor of Hirschau, Hermann Falck, then said: "Holy Father Benedict, I want would like to leave you with this taste of Bavaria: these are pralines, sausage pralines.”
“This is something completely new," Benedict replied.
"One can eat it with anything. It’s really sausage," said the mayor, who then presented the Pope emeritus with a book from a local poet.
The mayor said they were returning to Bavaria on Saturday, to which Benedict asked: "Is it still warm in Bavaria?"
"Yes, but it's raining," said regional Minister, Beate Merke.
“Global warming of two, three or four degrees...,” Benedict XVI replied. “We must still be happy and see how it goes, probably not more. But all the best to you!”
Benedict was then handed a gift from the bakery where Joseph Ratzinger's mother had worked. "Oh, well I never!", he said.
He was then told that the Christmas tree has two tips, one dedicated to the reigning Pope Francis and an extra one for emeritus Benedict.
The "Tree Owner" then introduced himself briefly and explained where the tree comes from and how it was transported to Rome.
Pope Francis received the dignitaries in a private audience on Friday morning, and on Christmas Eve will visit the tree and the nativity scene that has customarily been constructed in St. Peter's Square.