The 85-year-old pontiff celebrated a festive mass in St. Peter’s Cathedral for two thousand parishioners, instead of the usual 20 thousand.
On the night of December 24-25, most Western Christian churches – primarily Catholics and Protestants – celebrated the onset of their main holiday of the year: the Nativity of Christ, which is celebrated on the supposed day of the birth of the infant Jesus according to the Gregorian calendar.
The most magnificent service, according to tradition, took place in the Catholic Cathedral of St. Peter in the Vatican. The Christmas Mass was celebrated personally by Pope Francis, however, as in 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, changes were made to the canonical order of the holiday. Although 10 times more parishioners were admitted to the cathedral than last year – 2 thousand instead of two hundred – this is about 10 times less than the maximum occupancy of St. Peter’s Basilica, which can accommodate up to 20 thousand believers.
In addition, given the physical condition of the 85-year-old pope, the mass, which usually begins exactly at midnight, this time was rescheduled for 19:30 pm.
In his address to the flock, the head of the Roman Catholic Church drew attention to the ability to see the manifestation of God not in grandiose, but, on the contrary, in small things. It is no coincidence, the pontiff noted, that Jesus was born in a poor family, in which there was not even a cradle for him (according to Holy Scripture, the newborn Messiah had to be put in a manger – a feeder for cattle).
“The meaning of Christmas,” Pope Francis said, in particular, “is that the Lord does not exalt himself in splendor, but descends [to us] to manifest himself in small things. He chooses this path to be closer to us, to touch our hearts, to give us salvation and bring us back to what really matters.”
It should be noted that Pope Francis celebrated the entire mass without a protective mask, even when he passed between the rows with the worshippers, who, on the contrary, were obliged to attend the service in masks. It seems that the pontiff was not afraid of the latest data, according to which 50,600 new cases of COVID-19 infection were registered in Italy on Christmas Eve.
For this reason, the Secretary of State of the Vatican (which has the status of a sovereign state) issued a decree on December 23 on mandatory vaccination of all residents and staff of the Holy See. According to sources cited by the Associated Press, Pope Francis has also been fully vaccinated and has already received a “booster” – the third dose of vaccination.