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Chancellor Merkel welcomes 'Sternsinger' children in chancellery

German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a large group of children dressed up as "wise men" in her first official act of 2016. She said the story of the three wise men still reflected important values in Europe today.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed more than 100 children at the Federal Chancellery building in Berlin for atraditional January appointment at Epiphany, marking the twelfth and final night of the Christmas season. Merkel said that their presence gave her and her staff motivation to face new challenges in the year ahead, and that it always was something for her to look forward to in the new year.

The chancellor also stressed that the children, who came

dressed up as magi

and are usually referred to as "Sternsinger" (literal translation: star singers) in German, symbolized hope that "things can always turn for the better."

The "Sternsinger" children go from door to door collecting donations for a charitable cause involving children in developing countries each year.

Last year,

the Catholic initiative managed to amass more than 45 million euros ($48 millions) for Christian charities.

An established tradition

The 108 boys and girls participating in the event in Berlin were chosen from the 27 Catholic dioceses across Germany, with each diocese sending four children to represent their area.

Elsewhere in the country, more than 300,000 children are currently expected to trek through their neighborhoods, knocking on doors for donations while performing the traditional new year blessing, singing songs dressed up as the

three wise men mentioned in the New Testament.

The children move in groups of three and are usually accompanied by at least one supervising adult. Going from house to house, this year they will write "20+C+M+B+16" using chalk on house entrances, which stands for "Christus mansionem benedicat" - the Latin translation of "May Christ bless this house." The numerals 20 and 16 combine to make the year.

Each year, the "Sternsinger" highlight a different country or group, raising awareness on underreported issues around the globe. For 2016, the Sternsinger chose to highlight poverty in Bolivia under the motto "Respect - for you, for me, for others."

Merkel highlights 'respect'

Chancellor Merkel picked up on the Latin language theme, saying that this year's motto for the event, "Respect," was also derived from a Latin word, with the root-word "spectare" meaning "to observe something" in its language of origin. Without referring to Europe's influx of refugees as such, Merkel stressed that in order to be respectful in such a manner, people had to be "open to observing new things, be that a person or an object."

"When I decide to open myself up to experiencing a new person, I have to be willing to be surprised by them and discover something I didn't know before," Merkel said in presence of the group of children.

Sternsingers and Merkel

Chancellor Merkel said the children brought joyto her and her staff, giving them motivation to face new challenges

Although she did not mention the issue of refugees or asylum explicitly, Merkel cited Article 1 of Germany's constitution, which begins: "Human dignity is inviolable." She told the children that this statement applied not only to people in Germany but also to "people that live in Europe," adding that "it should be applied to all people."

Chancellor Merkel donated 200 euros ($215) in cash. Her office will also be donating another 7,500 euros to a particular aid project in Bolivia, which is also supported by the Catholic initiative.

ss/msh (dpa, KNA)

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