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Vatican moves forward 'midnight' Mass for Christmas Eve

Catholic World News - December 07, 2009

PopeBenedict XVI will celebrate Mass on Christmas Eve beginning at 10 pm rather than at midnight, the Vatican has announced. The scheduling change, which was made several weeks ago, was explained as a way “to tire the Pope a bit less.”

The Eucharistic celebration is now expected to end at around midnight, enabling the Pontiff to have a full night’s sleep before Christmas Day, when he will appear at noon to deliver his Urbi et Orbi blessing from the loggia of St. Peter’s basilica.

The London Times (which is frequently sensationalistic in its coverage of Vatican affairs) opened speculation that the change might signal concerns about the health of the Holy Father. Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, denied any medical concerns. “There is no cause for alarm.” He assured reporters. Since Pope Benedict’s election the Vatican has been candid about allowing providing ample rest for the Pontiff, who is now 82 years old.

Nevertheless the scheduling change surprised Vatican-watchers, who pointed out that the Mass on Christmas Eve has always begun at midnight, even during the last few years of the pontificate of the ailing John Paul II.

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