Pope Francis’ Christmas and New Year liturgies will be celebrated without the presence of faithful due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as happened at Easter, according to the Catholic News Agency (CNA).
According to a letter sent by the Secretariat of State to the embassies accredited in the Vatican, to which Cna has had access, Pope Francis will celebrate Christmas Mass “in private, without the presence of members of the diplomatic corps”.
Diplomats in the Vatican usually attend papal masses as special guests.
The letter, sent on October 22, states that the liturgies will be broadcast online.
At Easter, due to pandemic measures, Pope Francis’ mass took place even without an audience.
For the first time from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica there was no traditional “urbi et orbi” blessing from the Pope and Francis addressed the faithful during his mass.
During Advent and Easter, the program of the Pope’s public liturgies and masses is usually particularly crowded, with thousands of participants.
In recent years, the Pope has celebrated a mass on 12 December for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a ceremony and prayer on 8 December in the Spanish Steps in Rome for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
According to the papal public events program for 2020 posted on the Vatican website, instead of a mass on December 8, the Pope will conduct the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the day.
During the Christmas period, the Pope usually celebrates the Rooster Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the night of December 24 and on Christmas day he gives the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.
In recent years he has also prayed on December 31 and celebrated mass on January 1 for the solemnity of Mary Mother of God, both in St. Peter’s Basilica.
These events are not included in Pope Francis’ public agenda for 2020, with the exception of the Christmas day blessing ‘Urbi et Orbi’.
The Pope has yet to give all of his typical Angelus speeches and hold the general audience every Wednesday except Christmas.
Italy has seen an increase in cases, as well as an increase in hospitalizations and deaths, in recent weeks, prompting the government to enact new containment measures, including the total closure of theaters, bars and restaurants after 6pm.
Parties and receptions have also been suspended, a curfew has been defined in some areas and from the beginning of October it is mandatory to wear masks, even on the street.
Thousands of people took to the streets in recent days to protest against these measures, and clashes broke out between demonstrators and police forces especially in Naples and Rome.
According to a report by the French agency AFP, the covid-19 pandemic has already caused more than 1.1 million deaths and more than 43 million cases of infection worldwide. In Italy, another 37,000 people died.