In the almost empty basilica, the image is striking. The Pope celebrated, Thursday, December 24, a night mass as never St. Peter’s Basilica had probably known.
Unlike the thousands of people who usually attend midnight mass, only 170 faithful – mostly Vatican employees – had been allowed to attend the celebration. In front of which Pope Francis presided over a ceremony of a little less than 1.5 hours, accompanied by about thirty cardinals, most of them being officials of the Curia. All except the Pope and the singers from the Sistine Chapel choir wore masks.
Pope Francis’ Christmas in times of Covid-19
Mass had also been exceptionally advanced at 7:30 p.m. to take into account the health context, and in particular the measures taken by the Italian government. From December 24 to January 6, Italy is indeed once again confined. Even if participation in mass is one of the exceptions authorized by the Italian authorities, the condition is to respect a curfew in force from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
” God says to you: “Courage, I am with you” ”
During this sober and simple Mass, the Pope particularly insisted in his homily on the fact that Jesus was a gift for everyone, taking up the prophecy of Isaiah: “A child was born to us, a son was given to us. “
While the world has been stricken for months by the coronavirus, Francis urged everyone to welcome Jesus into their own life, even if he did not necessarily feel worthy of it. “Do you have the feeling of not getting there, the fear of being unsuitable, the fear of not getting out of the tunnel of the ordeal?” God says to you: “Courage, I am with you” ”, said the Pope.
“Illiterate in kindness”
For Francis, the child who comes to a manger on Christmas night is a sign sent by God for “Make us understand how far he loves our human condition”, And this “Until touching with his concrete love the worst of our miseries”.
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This is also why it is “Born in the night, without decent accommodation, in poverty and in rejection, when he deserved to be born as the greatest king in the most beautiful of palaces”. “The Son of God was born rejected to tell us that every rejected person is a child of God”, insisted the Pope. “God makes his home near us, poor and in need, to tell us that by serving the poor we will love him. “
The birth of Jesus, continued the Pope, is a way of “Let us cross by his free, indefatigable, concrete love”. Without what, “Hungry for entertainment, success and worldliness”, there is a great risk of forgetting “The manger of Bethlehem”, until they become “Illiterate in kindness”.
“This manger, poor in everything and rich in love, teaches that the food of life is the fact of allowing ourselves to be loved by God and of loving others”, underlined the Pope. “Jesus gives us the example: He, the Word of God, is a baby; he does not speak, but he offers his life. “ A representation of Jesus, baby in the manger, in front of which Francis meditated, at the very end of mass, before leaving the altar of the basilica.