A very Vatican Christmas - Metro US

A very Vatican Christmas

On Dec. 25, the pope gives the world his blessing — the Urbi et Orbi — from the Vatican balcony. But the month leading up to Christmas Day is an extremely busy one for the pope, who is both a head of state and the leader of the world’s largest denomination.

“Most of the pope’s day takes place away from the public eye,” explains Sean-Patrick Lovett, head of Vatican Radio’s English programming. “He … celebrates Mass and reads the news. After that he has countless audiences with political and religious leaders.”

In the afternoons, Benedict XVI spends most of is time reading and writing. “He’s an academic,” explains Lovett. “When you meet him, he looks you in the eyes and listens. He’s a man of substance.”

Your best chance to see the pope, advises Robert Mickens, Vatican correspondent for British mag The Tablet, is to attend his weekly general audiences.

During Christmas, the pope’s schedule gets even more hectic. Roman children bring their Baby Jesus to the Vatican for a blessing. He celebrates Mass for Rome’s university students, and he gives his “State of the Church” address to Vatican leaders. He blesses St. Peter’s Square’s record-tall Christmas tree and its enormous nativity scene. He celebrates Masses at St. Peter’s Basilica. And he mustn’t forget Rome’s garbage collectors: Each year, they make a nativity scene. It, too, receives a special blessing.

How does the pope relax? He plays the piano. And according to insiders, he plays it well.

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