From Bethlehem and Frankfurt to London and Boston, the surging coronavirus put a damper on Christmas Eve for a second year, forcing churches to cancel or scale back services and disrupting travel plans and family gatherings. Details, per the AP:
- Drummers and bagpipers marched through Bethlehem to smaller than usual crowds after new Israeli travel restrictions meant to slow the highly contagious omicron variant kept international tourists away from the town where Jesus is said to have been born.
- In Germany, a line wound halfway around Cologne’s massive cathedral, not for midnight Mass but for vaccinations. The offer of shots was an expression of “care for one’s neighbor” that was consistent with the message of Christmas, cathedral provost Guido Assmann told the DPA news agency.
- In New York City, where omicron has spread widely, people waited in long lines to get tested, many doing so as a precaution before traveling to reunite with family. However, holiday travel was dealt a blow when major airlines canceled hundreds of flights amid staffing shortages largely tied to omicron.
- Numerous churches in the US canceled in-person services, including Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital and historic Old South Church in Boston. Others held outdoor celebrations or a mix of online and in-person worship.
- In Rome, a maskless Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Eve Mass before an estimated 2,000 people in St. Peter’s Basilica, where admission was limited and worshippers had to wear masks. While the number of faithful was far more than the 200 allowed in last year, it was a fraction of the 20,000 the basilica can seat. Before the pandemic, St. Peter's was routinely packed for midnight Mass.
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