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Pope Francis holds Christmas Eve Mass amid Italy surge

An estimated 2,000 people attended the service in St. Peter’s Basilica while Italy recorded a record number of COVID cases.
Pope Francis unveils a statue of Baby Jesus as he celebrates Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Dec. 24, 2021.
Pope Francis unveils a statue of Baby Jesus as he celebrates Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Dec. 24, 2021. [ ALESSANDRA TARANTINO | AP ]
Published Dec. 24, 2021

ROME — Pope Francis has celebrated Christmas Eve Mass before an estimated 2,000 people in St. Peter’s Basilica, going ahead with the service despite the resurgence in COVID-19 cases that has prompted a new vaccine mandate for Vatican employees.

A maskless Francis processed down the central aisle of the basilica Friday as the Sistine Chapel choir sang “Noel,” kicking off the Vatican’s Christmas holiday.

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 the official death toll to 136,386.

The Vatican secretary of state on Thursday imposed a new vaccine mandate on all Vatican staff, except those who have recovered from the coronavirus. The faithful attending Mass are required to wear masks.

Francis, who is missing part of one lung and had intestinal surgery in July, has largely eschewed masks. He is believed to have received the third booster shot.

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