We were debating whether or not to try to attend midnight Mass at St. Peter's when, at 9:00 pm we began to hear singing coming from the square. Since our apartment is only 100 meters from St. Peter's square, we decided to see what was going on. To our wonder, there was a full-blown Mass/celebration already underway within the Basilica. Inside attendance was apparently by invitation only. However, everything was being displayed live on five very large screens in the square. We were quite comfortable watching the Mass from the outside as the weather was fairly warm and the crowds well behaved. For us, being outside was an advantage because you had a better view of the proceedings and one could take photos (which was not allowed inside during the Mass). It was quite interesting to watch approximately ten priests on the screen walking through the Basilica each carrying a chalice filled with hosts, and then actually seeing them exiting St. Peter's and descending the exterior stairs. Many of the onlookers were familiar enough with the proceedings to move towards the bottom of the stairs prior to the exiting of the priests in order to link up with them and receive communion. As the Mass was ending Pope Francesco picked up the statue of the baby Jesus and appeared to carry it towards the main doors of St. Peter's. At that point, we followed the crowd toward the Crèche in the square anticipating that the Pope was bringing it there to be placed in the manger. Much to our surprise, some civilian assistant dressed in a suit, shirt, and tie, walked to the back of the manger scene, only to reappear a moment later carrying the baby Jesus statue like a football under his arm and placed in the manger. Neither the Pope nor anyone connected to the clergy was anywhere to be seen. Such a disappointment!
Carl and Lorraine Aveni are two retirees planning on traveling through Europe for at least one year.