Pope to Hold Early Midnight Mass Due to Virus Curfew

People follow Pope Francis as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY (AFP) — Pope Francis’ traditional Christmas Eve mass will be held two hours earlier than normal to abide by Italy’s coronavirus curfew, the Vatican revealed on Thursday.

The so-called Midnight Mass, normally held from 9:30 pm in St Peter’s Basilica on December 24, will take place at 7:30 pm (1830 GMT).

With the ceremony normally lasting around 90 minutes, this will allow ample time for worshippers to get home before Italy’s 10 p.m. nationwide curfew comes into effect.

The event normally draws large crowds but the Vatican said attendance at masses celebrated by the pope in December and early January will be very limited due to the need for social distancing.

The 83-year-old pontiff, who is rarely seen wearing a mask, was forced to cancel his weekly general audiences with the public in November due to a rise in infections.

Italy was the first European country hit by the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year and remains one of the worst affected, having reported more than 61,700 deaths.

© Agence France-Presse

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