London, Nov 21 (ANI): With Christmas approaching in a month's time, the Pope has declared that the presence of animals like cattle and donkeys in traditional Nativity scenes is based on little more than a myth.
As churches and families around the world prepare to dust off their Nativity figures for the festive season, Pope Benedict writes in a new book on Christ that contrary to popular belief, Jesus' birth was not presided over by oxen, asses, camels or indeed any other beasts, the Telegraph reported.
"There is no mention of animals in the Gospels," he wrote in the third and last volume of his biography of Jesus Christ, which like the previous two books is expected to become an international best-seller, with an initial print run of a million copies.
The inclusion of domestic animals in the Nativity scene may have been inspired by pre-Christian traditions, for instance in the Book of Habakkuk, a part of the Hebrew Bible which was probably written by an early prophet in the seventh century BC, Benedict wrote.
But children around the world need not be too disappointed - the German pontiff said that the tradition of donkeys or oxen beside the manger was so deeply entrenched that it would doubtless survive his scepticism.
"No one will give up the oxen and the donkey in their Nativity scenes," he writes in the book.
The belief that animals were in the stable where Christ was born has proved an enduring tradition even in the Vatican - the elaborate Nativity scene set up in St Peter's Square in the weeks before Christmas each year has featured livestock such as sheep.
The book, 'Jesus of Nazareth - The Infancy Narratives,' traces Christ's early life until the age of 12, and will be published around the world in nine languages. (ANI)