PARK SLOPE — A neighborhood that revolves around moms and babies took time out Wednesday to pay respects to history's most revered mother and child — the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.
The Most Rev. Nicholas di Marzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, blessed a Nativity scene and Christmas tree in Grand Army Plaza on Wednesday afternoon.
Catholic leaders heralded the installation of the creche and tree in the plaza, which is technically part of Prospect Park. A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Brooklyn said the holiday display is the first one the diocese has ever installed in the park.
Church officials said the manger scene was a reminder that Christmas isn't just about the presents in Santa's sleigh. The manger blessing took place just days after a public school principal in Sunset Park briefly banned displays of Santa because he's considered a "religious figure."
“In a world in which even the symbols of Christmas are slightly fading away I thought it would be important to restore the Christmas tree to Grand Army Plaza," said the Rev. Michael Perry, pastor of Our Lady of Refuge Church in Flatbush, who organized Wednesday's blessing. "We took it a step further, and now we have the tree and the manger celebrating the birth of Christ."
Grand Army Plaza is a bit of a multi-faith crossroads. It played host to the "world's largest menorah" during Hanukkah earlier this month. The plaza will also be the setting for a Dec. 21 winter solstice celebration where Mama Donna Henes, a self-described "urban shaman," will "chant to invoke the female forces in the universe present in all people."
The Diocese of Brooklyn is the eighth largest in the United States and represents about 1.5 million Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens.
"The importance of the creche is to remind us that God enters into the meanness of our human condition, and transforms our humble and at times desperate life to manifest His glory," said Monsignor Kieran Harrington, chairman of DeSales Media Group and vicar for communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn.