Christ must be the center of our lives, Pope Benedict XVI told Rome garbage collectors and street sweepers as he visited an enormous, always-expanding Nativity scene they erected in a city office.
Continuing a tradition begun by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict visited the sanitation workers’ Nativity scene Jan. 5, making the short trip across the street from the Vatican walls.
In the presence of Rome’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, the pope first thanked the workers for keeping the area around St. Peter’s Square clean and tidy, enhancing the worship experience of visitors.
He then praised the faith and dedication that went into building the Nativity scene that, since 1972, has grown to include 95 houses and some 200 figures in addition to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Wise Men.
The building materials include olive wood from Bethlehem and little chips of marble given to the street sweepers when the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica was cleaned and restored in preparation for the Holy Year 2000.
Springs, rivers and aqueducts run through the scene meant to represent Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, though some of the streets are paved with tiny “sanpietrini,” the cobblestones used throughout the center of Rome and named for St. Peter.
The pope told the sanitation workers, “Visiting the Nativity scene, especially this evening on the vigil of the solemnity of Epiphany, is like going again on pilgrimage to Bethlehem, to the holy grotto where the Redeemer was born.”
Pope Benedict said he hoped people would look at the scene and meditate on the fact that God became human to save all humanity.
“We can welcome him into our hearts and experience the joy of his sanctifying presence,” the pope said.
“However, it is not enough to stop and look,” he said. “Jesus must become the center of our entire lives. Yes, it is important that he is the guide of our daily journey and the ultimate, definitive goal of our earthly pilgrimage.” [Source]