MANILA, Philippines – At a solemn ceremony on Christmas Eve, a nativity scene or belen was unveiled in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Nine of the statues were dressed in Filipino garb, according to CBCP News, the news service of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
The statues, which represent indigenous groups in the Philippines, were designed by Filipino sculptor Kublai Ponce-Millan.
“The attractive smiling figures dressed in colorful native attire and playing musical instruments, portray the joyful spirit of Philippine Christmas which is known as the ‘longest and most festive celebration in the world’,” said the report by CBCP News.
The report also said the Governorate of the Vatican City organized the event, which was watched by Pope Benedict XVI from a window in the papal apartments. Ecclesiastical Authorities of the Holy See were there, and so were civil officials from the Vatican and Rome.
The Filipino community was led by Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See Mercedes A. Tuazon, and Josephine Bantug.
Tuazon thanked the Vatican for giving the Philippines a special place in the center of the church’s Christmas celebration this 2010. She also said the gesture was a special way to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the Holy See.
The Karilagan Filipino Choir sang a Tagalog Christmas carol.
His Eminence Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo, President of the Governorate of the Vatican City, noted that the Philippines is the largest Christian country in Asia, and that Filipino Catholics have a dynamic faith.
Pope Benedict XVI lighted a candle for peace at 6 p.m. and blessed the crowd at the unveiling ceremony.