VATICAN CITY – The pope's Christmas tree — the tallest to date to adorn the Vatican — is finally in position in St. Peter's Square after bad weather and other problems delayed its arrival for more than a week.
"This morning I saw the tree from my window," Pope Benedict XVI told several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Basilica for the weekly public audience Wednesday.
The 109-foot fir tree from the mountains of Sila National Park in Calabria, southern Italy, arrived during the night. Thick fog encountered en route was the last of a series of delivery problems.
Workers had problems cutting down the tree because of heavy winds. Then they had to figure out how to hoist the 9-ton tree onto the helicopter that carried it on the first leg of the trip to the Vatican.
"We were on the Sila for three days," Eugenio Ripepe, supervisor of the delivery, told AP Television News as he described the transportation difficulties.
The tradition of erecting a Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square, next to a larger-than-life Nativity scene, was introduced by Pope John Paul II in 1982.
According to Vatican statistics, the trees, which over the past 24 years have come from different European countries or regions of Italy, have never surpassed 105 feet, making this year's tree the tallest.
The tree will be decorated and finally lit on Christmas Eve.