In his homily, Francis 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.”
The “Midnight Mass” actually began 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.
No curfew is in place this year, but cases this week have surged even beyond 2020 levels. For the second day in a row, Italy on Friday set a new pandemic daily record with 50,599 new cases. Another 141 people died, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 136,386.
The mandate does not apply to the faithful attending Mass, but they are required to wear masks. Those attending Friday’s Mass, and the priests, bishops and cardinals concelebrating it, all wore masks. Francis, who is missing part of one lung and had intestinal surgery in July, has largely eschewed masks, even when greeting prelates and the general public.
“I’m not worried because first of all I have a mask on, and I’ve had my third dose so I feel relaxed,” said Franco Pasquali, a Rome resident attending the service. “The problem is those who don’t vaccinate, that’s all.”
Francis is believed to have received the third booster shot, as has emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. Francis has said vaccination is an “act of love” and he has called for wealthier countries to provide the shots to the developing world.
Among those attending the Mass was Melissa Helland, an American tourist visiting Rome with her family.
“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 said before the service began.
Francesco Sportelli and Luigi Navarro contributed from Vatican City.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
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