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Pope Francis marks Christmas Eve with mass attended by 2,000

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Pope Francis marks Christmas Eve with mass attended by 2,000
Pope Francis celebrates Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Friday. Photo by Spaziani/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Pope Francis marked Christmas Eve by leading a service attended by about 2,000 people at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City near Rome on Friday.

The pope pressed on with the Catholic mass starting at 7:30 p.m. CEST despite surging COVID-19 cases in Italy that have prompted a new vaccine mandate for Vatican employees, NPR reported.

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The pope was maskless as he entered and processed down the center aisle of the church, and remained maskless throughout the service, according to video of the event.

The pope emphasized the Catholic belief that God was born as Jesus, a small, weak baby rather than appearing as a mighty figure, according to the Vatican website's English transcription of the service.

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"God does not rise up in grandeur, but lowers Himself into littleness," the pope said.

The birth showed that "littleness is the path God shows to draw near to us, to save us, to bring us back to what truly matters," the Vatican account said.

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"Let us rouse ourselves, for tonight a light has been lit, a kindly light, reminding us that, in our littleness, we are beloved sons and daughters, children of the light," Pope Francis said.

The Vatican allowed only 200 people at the service in 2020 as the pandemic raged unchecked by vaccines, but the basilica can hold up to 20,000 people.

President Joe Biden meets with Pope Francis at Vatican

President Joe Biden (L) greets Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican in Rome on Friday. Photo by Vatican Media/UPI | License Photo

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