Live updates: Pope holds Christmas Eve Mass amid Italy surge

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Francis

Pope Francis celebrates Christmas Eve Mass, at St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Friday Dec. 24, 2021. Pope Francis is celebrating Christmas Eve Mass before an estimated 1,500 people in St. Peter’s Basilica. He’s going ahead with the service despite the resurgence in COVID-19 cases that has prompted a new vaccine mandate for Vatican employees. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

ROME — Pope Francis has celebrated Christmas Eve Mass before an estimated 2,000 people in St. Peter’s Basilica, going ahead with the service despite the resurgence in COVID-19 cases that has prompted a new vaccine mandate for Vatican employees.

A maskless Francis processed down the central aisle of the basilica Friday as the Sistine Chapel choir sang “Noel,” kicking off the Vatican’s Christmas holiday.

For the second day in a row, Italy on Friday set a new pandemic daily record with 50,599 new cases. Another 141 people died, bringing the official death toll to 136,386.

The Vatican secretary of state on Thursday imposed a new vaccine mandate on all Vatican staff, except those who have recovered from the coronavirus. The faithful attending Mass are required to wear masks.

Francis, who is missing part of one lung and had intestinal surgery in July, has largely eschewed masks. He is believed to have received the third booster shot.

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