- Despite a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Italy, Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in front of an estimated 1,500 people on Friday.
- On Friday, Italy set a new pandemic daily record for the second day in a row, with 50,599 new cases.
On Friday, Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in front of an estimated 1,500 people, despite a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Italy, which has prompted a new vaccine mandate for Vatican employees.
The Sistine Chapel choir sang Noel as a maskless Francis made his way down the basilica’s central aisle, kicking off the Christmas season and commemorating Jesus’ birth in a manger in Bethlehem.
COVID-19 once again limited attendance at the event, resulting in a crowd that was only about a fifth of what had been in pre-pandemic years.
Francis said that people indifferent to the poor offend God, and he urged everyone to “look beyond all the lights and decorations” and remember the poorest. His sermon was centered on the theme that Jesus was born with nothing.
“Brothers and sisters, as we stand in front of the crib, we consider what is most important, despite the lovely lights and decorations. We think about the child, “he stated.
The significance of giving back to others
Francis, who turned 85 last week, said that the poor baby Jesus should remind people that serving others is more important than seeking status or pursuing success for a lifetime.
Francis, who has made the defense of the poor a cornerstone of his pontificate, said, “It is in them [the poor] that he wants to be honored.”
“May we have only one fear on this night of love: offending God’s love and hurting him by despising the poor with our indifference. They are dear to Jesus, and one day they will greet us in heaven, “he stated.
Francis said that workers — the shepherds — were the first to see the baby Jesus and that labor must be treated with dignity, lamenting that many people die in workplace accidents worldwide.
“Let us say it again on this day of life: No more workplace deaths! And let us make a commcommitg that this happens, “he stated
Every year, more than a million people die due to work-related accidents, according to the United Nations International Labour Organization.
Cases of COVID-19 are on the peak once more in Italy.
The midnight mass started at 7:30 p.m. local time, a nod to the Pope’s grit and a carryover from last year when the service had to end before Italy’s COVID-19 curfew.
This year, there is no curfew, but cases have surpassed 2020 levels this week. On Friday, Italy set a new pandemic daily record for the second day in a row, with 50,599 new cases. Another 141 people died, bringing the total number of people killed in Italy to 136,386.
On Thursday, the Vatican secretary of state issued a new vaccine mandate for all Vatican employees, except those who have recovered from the coronavirus.
Previously, only employees who dealt directly with the public, such as those at the Vatican Museums and the Swiss Guards, were required to be vaccinated. In contrast, others could access their offices with regular testing.
The requirement did not apply to those attending mass, but they were required to wear masks.
Vaccination, Francis has said, is an “act of love,” and he has urged wealthier countries to provide vaccines to the developing world.
Source: CBC News
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