By Christie L. Chicoine

CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – Auxiliary Bishop Joseph P. McFadden will bless a new Christmas crèche at Independence Mall on Market Street between Fifth and Sixth streets near the Independence Visitor Center at 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15.

The crèche is being displayed by chapters of the Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

John Barry Kelly, chairman of the Christmas crèche committee and a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Drexel Hill, said the new crèche replaces the Nativity scene that had been displayed in the vicinity since 1997.

The Nativity display at a national site is significant, Kelly said, as it acknowledges “this season of the birth of our Lord who is the central source of our blessings in this nation. Our founding fathers were men of religious faith, and this is a reflection on an abiding, historical belief in our country, in the spaninity of Christ.”

The committee applies annually to the U.S. Department of the Interior for permission to erect the Nativity scene.

At the blessing of the crèche approximately 40 students from St. Mary Interparochial School in Philadelphia will sing Christmas carols. The students attend the school’s afterschool CARES (Children Are Receiving Extended Services) program.

At press time, three priests were scheduled to assist Bishop McFadden at the blessing: Msgr. Daniel J. Sullivan, regional vicar for Philadelphia-South and pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in South Philadelphia; and, from the Society Hill section of Philadelphia, Father Paul A. DiGirolamo, pastor of Old St. Mary Parish and parochial administrator at Holy Trinity Parish; and Jesuit Father Daniel M. Ruff, pastor of Old St. Joseph Parish.

The new crèche was purchased by St. Joseph’s University, said Carmen Croce, curator of the art collection at the university. The crèche that it replaces dates back to the 1890s, and is originally from the Church of the Gesu in Philadelphia which is now closed. It will eventually be restored and displayed at the university.

It is Kelly’s hope that many will attend the new crèche blessing “to open the Christmas season in Philadelphia and to commemorate the birth of Christ.”

As in years past, a menorah is also displayed at the site.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or