Pope Francis has canceled his traditional New Year’s Eve visit to the Nativity scene in St Peter’s Square over concerns of spreading coronavirus among the gathered crowds, the Vatican said Thursday.
The pontiff is normally met by well-wishers when he visits the crib on December 31, after presiding over the end-of-year Vespers and chanting of the Te Deum prayer.
But the Vatican said in a diary note that “the event will not be held, to avoid gatherings and the subsequent risks of COVID-19 infection.”
Pope Francis, 85, on Wednesday held his weekly general audience as usual in the Paul VI hall in the Vatican, with masks and social distancing.
But as elsewhere in Europe, Italy — and by extension the tiny Vatican City State — is facing a surge in coronavirus cases fuelled by the new Omicron variant.