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Vatican Christmas tree unveiled early for Year of Mercy

The Christmas tree is positioned in St Peter's Square (Photo: CNS)

Christmas may be more than a month away, but the Vatican’s tree is already up in St Peter’s Square.

The tree has been installed early to make sure it is ready for the Year of Mercy, alongside the Nativity scene.

Vatican landscapers are preparing the tree and the Nativity scene for December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In preparation for the event, which begins with the opening of the Holy Door in St Peter’s Basilica, workmen broke through the masonry that had walled off the door.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the basilica, led a small ceremony that included prayers and a procession earlier this week.

Four workmen then used a pickaxe to break through a portion of the wall that covers the Holy Door from inside the basilica.

They removed a sealed metal box that, in keeping with tradition, had been embedded in the wall at the end of the Jubilee Year of 2000.

The zinc box, which was opened with a blowtorch, contained the keys and handles for opening the Holy Door, commemorative medals and a papal gold coin marking the last Holy Year.

The 82-foot spruce fir comes from Germany’s Bavaria region, and a large piece had to be cut off so it could be transported.

The decorations this year include painted ceramic ornaments made by children receiving oncological care in a number of Italian hospitals.

The tree will be lit up on the evening of Friday, December 18.

The Nativity scene was donated by the northern Italian province of Trent.

The 24 life-sized figures carved from wood included Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the Three Magi and a man bending over to help an elderly man in an act of mercy.

The surrounding scene and figures were to represent life in the Dolomites in the 1900s.