The Italian Almanac

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Pope Benedict XVI

Italian News - December 12

Pope Benedict XVI warned on Sunday that materialism was stifling the true spirit of Christmas.

Addressing thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for his weekly Angelus blessing, the pope said that "in a consumer society, Christmas unfortunately suffers a sort of commercial contamination which risks modifying its authentic spirit."

The 78-year-old pope said a genuine Christmas spirit was marked by "sobriety and a joy which is interior not exterior." He also underscored the importance of cribs at Christmas, saying that creating Nativity scenes in the home was a "simple but effective way of representing the faith in order to transmit it to one's children."

The Vatican has already set up its traditional Nativity scene in front of St Peter's Basilica. The crib has been a regular Christmas fixture since 1982, when the custom of building a four-metre-high house with lifesize figures in it was started by John Paul II. Along with the giant fir tree which is always placed near it in the square, the crib has become a trademark of Roman Christmases and families often make special trips to see it.