Pope Francis holds Christmas Eve Mass at Vatican as COVID cases reach record high in Italy


On December 24, 2021 Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. There were about 2,000 persons who had gathered for the service. The mass, with about more than ten times more those who attended last year, took place despite a surge in cases, the highest to date in Italy. However, it should also be remembered that many Italians have been vaccinated, which was not the case last year.

The Midnight Mass began about four and a half hours earlier, similar to last year, when there were lockdowns. This year, it began earlier not due to a lockdown. The Pope is 85-years old and his endurance is not as before, so mass began early. Pope Francis proceeded down the central aisle as “Noel” was sung by the choir at the Sistine chapel. He remained without a face covering for the entire service.

The pope asked his congregation to focus on the “littleness” of Jesus who was born in a manger on Christmas in Bethlehem. He said that the littleness was the core of his message as according to him God did not “rise up in grandeur but lowers himself into littleness.”

He continued emphasizing on the littleness that was chosen by God to draw near to humankind, to touch hearts, to save humanity and to bring humans back to what really mattered. He also said that Jesus asked us “to rediscover and value the little things in life.”

On Thursday, the Vatican secretary of state had imposed a new vaccine mandate on all staff who worked at the Vatican. Earlier, employees who had contact with the public had to be vaccinated. Some of them included Swiss Guards and staff at the Vatican museum. Other staff could gain office access with regular testing. After the surge of the omicron all staff at the Vatican have to be vaccinated.

The vaccine mandate was not put forth for the faithful who gathered at the Basilica for the mass. However, they had to wear masks. Bishops, Cardinals and priests, who were about 200 in number, also wore masks. Pope Francis did not wear a mask and has avoided them in the past as well when he met prelates as well as the public.

Many worshippers, who were unable to get tickets as the capacity was limited to 2,000 due to the pandemic, observed the mass in giant screens outside the Basilica. Midnight Mass was also held in many cities and countries across the world.

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