Vatican Moves Pope’s Christmas Message Indoors Because of COVID-19

    24 December 2020

    The leader of the world's Roman Catholics, Pope Francis, will lead his Christmas message from inside the Vatican to avoid gathering large crowds.

    Traditionally, the pope has given his message on the outdoor balcony of St. Peter's Basilica. However, the new coronavirus restrictions will change how the Pope's Christmas message will be given, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

    The restrictions bar people from going to St. Peter's Square. Papal events will be given live on the internet and broadcasted on television around the world instead.

    Pope Francis holds the weekly general meeting at the Vatican on December 16, 2020. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    Pope Francis holds the weekly general meeting at the Vatican on December 16, 2020. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS

    Italy plans to have a nationwide lockdown during most of the Christmas and New Year holidays. Nonessential shops will be closed between December 24 and 27, December 31 and January 3 and from January 5 to 6. On these days, people will be permitted to travel only for work, health or emergency reasons.

    In addition to the Christmas message, five speeches that are usually given from the windows at St. Peter's Square between December 26 and January 6 will be moved inside.

    The rules will restrict the number of people able to attend events inside St. Peter's Basilica in December and early January.

    The pope's Christmas Eve Mass will start two hours earlier than usual. Only a limited number of people are to attend. They must return home before the 10 p.m. curfew in Italy.

    Italy is facing a second wave of COVID-19 infections. For several months, few members of the public have attended events outdoors. Now, all meetings are indoors or organized online with limited public involvement.

    Italy was the first Western country hit by the new coronavirus. It has had more than 69, 214 deaths linked to the virus since its outbreak started there in February. It has had the most deaths in Europe and the fifth-highest number in the world. The country has also recorded around two million COVID-19 cases to date.

    I'm Armen Kassabian.

    Philip Pullella from Reuters reported this story. Armen Kassabian adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    balcony –n. a raised structure that connects to the side of a building

    papal adj. related to the pope or the government of the Roman Catholic Church

    lockdown n. a situation where people are not permitted to leave their homes for an official reason like a health crisis; when prisoners are locked in their cells because of an emergency

    nonessential adj. not extremely necessary

    Mass n. a religious service in the Roman Catholic Church

    outbreak n. a sudden start or increase in a disease or in fighting