With Christmas curtailed, Pope starts season with pre-dawn visit to statue

By Philip Pullella ROME (Reuters) - Pope Francis made an unannounced, pre-dawn visit to a Rome landmark on Tuesday to pray after he was forced to cancel the traditional public ceremony because of the coronavirus. Popes traditionally go to Rome's Spanish Steps area on the afternoon of Dec. 8, the Roman Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception, to place a wreath of flowers at the base of a 12-metre column bearing a statue of the Madonna

Reuters December 09, 2020 00:10:11 IST
With Christmas curtailed, Pope starts season with pre-dawn visit to statue

With Christmas curtailed Pope starts season with predawn visit to statue

By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - Pope Francis made an unannounced, pre-dawn visit to a Rome landmark on Tuesday to pray after he was forced to cancel the traditional public ceremony because of the coronavirus.

Popes traditionally go to Rome's Spanish Steps area on the afternoon of Dec. 8, the Roman Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception, to place a wreath of flowers at the base of a 12-metre column bearing a statue of the Madonna.

The event, usually attended by thousands of people lining the streets and considered the start of the Rome Christmas season, was cancelled this year in order to avoid gatherings that could cause contagion.

Francis went at 7 a.m. and placed a basket of white roses at the base of the statue in the rain. During the 15-minute visit he prayed for the city and for all people around the world affected by COVID-19, a Vatican statement said.

Television footage showed the pope wearing a white mask and holding his own umbrella as he prayed.

He then went to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, where he said Mass before returning to the Vatican.

It was the first of a series of Christmas season papal events being curtailed because of the pandemic.

Only a limited number of people will be allowed into St. Peter's Basilica for papal Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses, which will be broadcast on television and streamed online.

Access to his "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the city and the world") blessing and message will also be restricted.

In October, the pope's weekly general audiences were moved back indoors without public participation after a period when a limited number of people were allowed to take part.

Italy has seen 60,606 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain. It has registered 1.74 million cases to date.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.