Opinion & Analysis

Letter from Rome

2:53 PM, November 26, 2018

Vatican City:The lessons of the upcoming Advent season and growing impatience with Pope Francis.

The priests from the United States who work in the Roman Curia had not even gathered yet for their big Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday evening at the Villa Stritch when the Vatican's annual Christmas tree was already up in St. Peter's Square.

In fact, the seminarians at the North American College over on the Janiculum Hill and the student-priests at the Casa Santa Maria down by the Trevi Fountain were still at cocktail hour ahead of their mid-day turkey and trimmings when workmen had just finished anchoring the 23-meter-high spruce (that's a little over 75 feet) next to the much taller obelisk... and a huge pile of sand.

The tree is a gift from the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in northeast Italy. The sand is from the Dolomite Mountains.

It was dumped in the square the weekend before last and an international team of four sculptors soon began a three-week-long project of transforming that yellowish-brown mound, now covered by a large canopy, into a manger scene.

The Vatican identified the artists and their nationalities as Richard Varano (USA), Ilya Filimontsev (Russia), Susanne Ruseler (Netherlands) and Rodovan Ziuny (Czech Republic). Their "Sand Nativity," which is projected to be 16 meters long and 5 meters high, is being sponsored and financed by the Patriarchate of Venice.

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