By Roy Lagarde
The Filipino community in Rome will celebrate the traditional Aguinaldo Mass with an unusual celebrant: Pope Francis.
While St. Peter’s Basilica hosted such Mass for Filipinos a few times in the past, the Dec. 15 celebration will be the first-ever to be presided over by a pope according to CBCP News.
“This is the fourth year that we celebrate it in the basilica but the first time that the Pope will be the one to preside,” said Scalabrinian Fr. Ricky Gente of the Filipino Chaplaincy in Rome.
He said that as much as they want to accommodate more Filipinos to attend the 4:30 pm Mass (10:30 pm in Manila), only 7,500 churchgoers would be able to enter the basilica because of the limited space.
“We have thousands of Filipinos who requested entry but we are not allowed to go beyond that sitting capacity of the basilica,” Fr. Gente said.
About 150 priests are also concelebrating the Mass including Cardinal Vicar Angelo de Donatis, the Vicar of Rome, and Fr. Leonir Chiarello, head of the Scalabrinians worldwide.
Philippine ambassador to the Holy See Grace Relucio-Princesa and the country’s envoy to Italy Domingo Nolasco are also attending the occasion.
Since Aguinaldo Masses are held for nine consecutive days leading up to Christmas, the rest of their celebrations will be held at the Santa Pudenziana Basilica.
The 4th-century edifice was designated as the official church of the Filipinos by pope-turned-saint John Paul II.
Attending Aguinaldo Masses or Misa de Gallo (dawn Mass) is one of the most distinctive and enduring traditions of Christmas in the Philippines.
The Vatican on Thursday unveiled the Nativity scene and lit the 85-feet tall Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square during a late afternoon ceremony.
Pope Francis expressed hope that the nativity scene will serve as a reminder of the true essence and real meaning of Christmas.
“It is a genuine way of communicating the Gospel, in a world that sometimes seems to be afraid to remember what Christmas really is,” he said.
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