For the second day in a row, Italy set a daily pandemic record on Friday with 50,599 new cases. Another 141 people died, bringing Italy’s official death toll in the pandemic to 136,386. With the arrival of the Omicron variant in Italy, the Vatican secretary of state this week imposed a new vaccine mandate on Vatican staff, extending it to all employees except those who have recovered from COVID-19.
Pope Francis prayed Saturday for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, using his Christmas Day Vatican address to urge health care for all, vaccines for the poor, and for dialogue to prevail in resolving the world’s conflicts.
The pope’s Christmas Day speech gives him an opportunity to draw a global audience’s attention to conflicts big and small. This year was no different. Pope Francis lamented ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, newly flaring tensions in Ukraine and Ethiopia, and an “unprecedented crisis” in Lebanon.
Pope Francis breaks all protocol and after blessing the Christmas crib incorporates all children in the procession. Wonderful! Thanks RAI for your broadcasting of the Mass and the interview with Cardinal Bassetti. pic.twitter.com/FXAoMdu4FX
— Prof. Mario I Aguilar (@MarioIAguilar) December 24, 2021
Amid the record-setting rise in COVID-19 cases in Italy this week, only a few thousand people flocked to a rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ annual “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the city and the world”) Christmas address. Normally, the square would be packed with tens of thousands of holiday well-wishers.
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 25, 2021
At least they could gather at all this year. Italy’s 2020 holiday lockdown forced Francis to deliver a televised address from inside the Apostolic Palace to prevent crowds from forming in the square. Although Italy this week counted more than 50,000 cases in a single day for the first time, the government has not ordered another lockdown.
Dear sister or brother, if as in Bethlehem, the darkness of night overwhelms you, if the hurt you carry inside cries out "You are worthless", tonight God responds and tells you: “I love you just as you are. I became little for you. Trust me and open your heart to me". #Christmas
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) December 24, 2021
Pope Francis also warned of the tendency to withdraw and isolate during the pandemic, urging instead “dialogue to try to resolve the world conflicts”. He prayed in particular for those most affected by the virus, including women and children who have suffered increased abuse during lockdowns.
— CNN Philippines (@cnnphilippines) December 25, 2021