Pope celebrates Christmas Eve Mass as virus surges in Italy

Pope Francis is celebrating Christmas Eve Mass before an estimated 1,500 people in St. Peter’s Basilica

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.”

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. The faithful 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.

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.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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