Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Eve Mass, at St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican on, Friday, Dec. 24, 2021, before an estimated 1,500 people in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The world is set to ring in another pandemic Christmas, while Italy on Friday set a new daily record with 50,599 new COVID cases.
He went ahead with the service despite the resurgence in COVID-19 cases that has prompted a new vaccine mandate for Vatican employees.
Attendance on Friday evening was limited to about 2,000 people, far more than the 200 allowed last year when Italy observed a full Christmas lockdown.
But the number is a fraction of the capacity of St. Peter’s, which can seat up to 20,000 and in pre-pandemic times would be packed for one of the most popular Vatican liturgies of the year.
The “Midnight Mass” actually started at 7:30 p.m., a nod to the 85-year-old pope’s endurance and a hold-over from last year, when the service had to end before Italy’s nationwide COVID-19 curfew.
Pope Francis appeared maskless and processed down the central aisle as the Sistine Chapel choir sang “Noel,” kicking off the Vatican’s Christmas holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.
On the occasion, The Pope urged the faithful to focus on the “littleness” of Jesus, and remember that he came into the world poor, without even a proper crib.
“That is where God is, in littleness,” Francis said.
“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.”
Check out the Vatican Christmas Eve Mass in the pictures below: