Pope celebrates Christmas Eve Mass as virus surges in Italy

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“That is where God is, in littleness,” Francis stated. “This is the message: God does not rise up in grandeur, but lowers himself into littleness. Littleness is the path that he chose to draw near to us, to touch our hearts, to save us and to bring us back to what really matters.”

Attendance on Friday was restricted to about 2,000 folks, excess of the 200 allowed in 2020 when Italy was in a full Christmas lockdown. But the quantity is a fraction of the capability of St. Peter’s, which may seat as much as 20,000 and in pre-pandemic instances can be packed for one of the crucial in style Vatican liturgies of the year.

The “Midnight Mass” really started at 7:30 p.m., a nod to the 85-year-old pope’s endurance and a hold-over from final year, when the service needed to finish earlier than Italy’s nationwide COVID-19 curfew.

No curfew is in place this year, however instances this week have surged even past 2020 ranges. For the second day in a row, Italy on Friday set a brand new pandemic each day report with 50,599 new instances. Another 141 folks died, bringing Italy’s official demise toll to 136,386.

With the arrival of the omicrom variant in Italy, the Vatican secretary of state on Thursday imposed a brand new vaccine mandate on all Vatican employees, extending it to all workers besides those that have recovered from the coronavirus. Previously, solely workers who handled the general public immediately needed to be vaccinated, such as employees on the Vatican Museums and the Swiss Guards, whereas others may entry their places of work with common testing.

The mandate doesn’t apply to the trustworthy attending Mass, however they’re required to put on masks. Those attending Friday’s Mass, and the clergymen, bishops and cardinals concelebrating it, all wore masks. Francis, who’s lacking a part of one lung and had intestinal surgical procedure in July, has largely eschewed masks, even when greeting prelates and most people.

“I’m not worried because first of all I have a mask on, and I’ve had my third dose so I feel relaxed,” stated Franco Pasquali, a Rome resident attending the service. “The problem is those who don’t vaccinate, that’s all.”

Francis is believed to have obtained the third booster shot, as has emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. Francis has stated vaccination is an “act of love” and he has known as for wealthier international locations to supply the pictures to the creating world.

Among these attending the Mass was Melissa Helland, an American vacationer visiting Rome together with her household.

“This is the first time in the last two years that we’ve been able to gather both as a family and to attend Mass because of the pandemic, so we are very excited and grateful,” she stated earlier than the service started.

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