Centuries-old tree to stay in forest after last-minute reprieve.
The majestic silver fir that had been destined to become the Vatican's Christmas tree in St Peter's Square this year has been spared from the chop after a last-minute intervention by environmental activists.
The news brings an end to a long-running dispute over the felling of the tree - which was to be a gift to Pope Francis from the mountain village of Rosello in Italy's central Abruzzo region - amid calls for it to be saved from the axe and confusion over its exact geographical location.
Lawyer and environmentalist Dario Rapino first raised concerns about the proposed chopping of the 30-m high silver fir in 2019 after it was announced that Rosello would be donating the tree to the Vatican.
Rapino, a nature photographer from Pescara, claimed that authorities had failed to conduct an environmental impact study on the tree which he said was 200 years old and was a protected species in a nature reserve, according to Italian media reports.
He also discovered that the tree was not located in Abruzzo but rather in the Agnone municipality of the neighbouring Molise region, telling local news outlet ChietiToday: "If it weren't tragic it would be laughable".
The Italian branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) also weighed in, stating that “cutting a tree of this size in the midst of a climate crisis is always a debatable decision, even more so in this specific case".
WWF Italia stressed that the tree in question was protected by the Habitats Directive which ensures the conservation of a wide range of rare, threatened or endemic animal and plant species in the European Union.
On Monday morning, as preparations were underway to cut the tree down, forest rangers intervened to halt its felling on the order of authorities from Rosello (in Abruzzo) and Agnone (in Molise), according to state broadcaster Rai News.
In the end, to avoid the prospect of leaving the Vatican without a Christmas tree, forestry officials came up with a last-minute solution by offering a silver fir from a nursery in Palena, not far from Rosello in the Abruzzo region.
Palena authorities agreed to the proposal and the tree - 26 metres high and 62 years old - will still be donated as planned on behalf of Rosello, reports the newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference Avvenire.
Earlier this month the Vatican announced that its 2022 Christmas tree would be illuminated in St Peter's Square on Saturday 3 December at 17.00 along with a Nativity scene donated from Sutrio in Italy's northern Friuli-Venezia Giuli region.
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Christmas tree destined for Vatican saved from the chop at last minute
Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City
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