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Pope Francis urges countries to strive for peace as he leads just 200 masked faithful

Pope Francis urges countries to strive for peace as he leads just 200 masked faithful at an early evening Covid-restricted ‘midnight’ mass in St Peter’s Basilica

  • Pope celebrated the mass in St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, on Christmas Eve 
  • Mostly employees of the state attended papal ceremony whilst wearing masks
  • Mass was held at 7.30pm instead of midnight to meet Italy’s curfew rules 

Pope Francis has led a smaller midnight mass than in previous years as he urged peace to masked believers. 

The spiritual leader of 1.3billion Catholics across the globe celebrated Christmas Eve mass in St Peter’s Basilica.

Fewer than 200 people, wearing face coverings, attended the mass, and they were mostly employees of the tiny state of Vatican City.

Christmas during the pandemic has started early as Pope Francis (pictured) leads midnight mass to masked followers

Fewer than 200 people, wearing face coverings, attended the mass, and they were mostly employees of the tiny state of Vatican City (pictured)

Fewer than 200 people, wearing face coverings, attended the mass, and they were mostly employees of the tiny state of Vatican City (pictured)

The mass, traditionally held at midnight, had been moved forward by two hours to 7.30pm to meet Italy’s curfew rules. 

During the message, he expressed his desire to visit crisis-hit Lebanon and urged political leaders in South Sudan to continue working for peace. 

Before the pandemic hit, several thousand believers and tourists had obtained precious tickets to attend the papal mass.

But on Christmas Eve, St Peter’s Square, which is usually filled with people, was deserted. 

Tough new coronavirus restrictions were imposed on Thursday over the Christmas and New Year period across Italy, the country hardest hit by the virus in Europe.

The country had nearly 71,000 deaths and more than two million cases since the beginning of the pandemic.  

The mass, traditionally held at midnight, had been moved forward by two hours to 7.30pm to meet Italy's curfew rules

The mass, traditionally held at midnight, had been moved forward by two hours to 7.30pm to meet Italy’s curfew rules

Pope Francis, who just celebrated his 84th birthday, will address his eighth Christmas message 'Urbi et orbi' ('to the city and the world') on Friday by video

Pope Francis, who just celebrated his 84th birthday, will address his eighth Christmas message ‘Urbi et orbi’ (‘to the city and the world’) on Friday by video

Pope Francis, who just celebrated his 84th birthday, will address his eighth Christmas message ‘Urbi et orbi’ (‘to the city and the world’) on Friday by video.

He will do it from the apostolic palace to prevent a crowd from gathering in St Peter’s Square.   

Christmas celebrations across the world have been changed due to the pandemic this year. 

Germany has been forced to cancel its famous Christmas markets, while in Kuwait, churches were closed until January 10.

In Belgium, residents are largely limited to welcoming a single visitor.

While in the Philippines some are choosing to spend the holidays alone because of the risk of catching the virus on public transport   

The Christmas Eve mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem will be closed to the public this year and broadcast online.

Only clergy and select individuals allowed inside the basilica, which was sterilised earlier Thursday ahead of the service. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk