Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Eve Mass on Thursday night amid restrictions on coronavirus that reduced a normal crowd of up to 10,000 congregants to a group of less than 100 people, according to reports.
The smaller-scale service was performed in the back section of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, instead of the main section of the basilica, Reuters reported.
In addition, the evening mass started about two hours earlier than normal, so participants could return home before 10 pm, the report said.
During his homily, the Roman Catholic leader urged his followers to reach out to those in need, noting that Jesus Christ was considered a stranger.
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“The Son of God was born an outcast, to tell us that every outcast is a child of God,” said the pope.
This year marks the eighth Christmas of the 84-year-old Francis’ pontificate, Reuters reported.
On Friday, Christmas Day, the Pope should read his traditional message “Urbi et Orbi” (for the city and for the world) from inside the Vatican, and not from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Square, as Italy and the Vatican remain under a national block during the holidays.
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During the blockade, people are being allowed to travel only for work, medical or emergency reasons, Reuters reported.
Christmas traditions have also been reduced in other areas of the globe, including Bethlehem, the West Bank, considered the birthplace of Christ, and in Australia, Colombia, Brazil, Greece and the Philippines, according to The Associated Press.
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In Belém, the gloomy weather only underscored the discreet tone of Christmas events, the AP reported. But the city’s mayor tried to make the best of the situation.
“Christmas is a holiday that renews hope in souls,” Mayor Anton Salman told the AP. “Despite all the obstacles and challenges due to the corona and the lack of tourism, the city of Belém still looks to the future with optimism”.