VATICAN CITY — As we mentioned in a story last week, Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas midnight Mass will end at midnight rather than begin at that hour.
The Vatican listed the 10 p.m. start time for the Dec. 24 Mass for the “Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord” in October when it published the schedule of papal liturgies for November 2009-January 2010.
As Christmas approached and people started checking their calendars, the Mass time started attracting attention and even a bit of concern. The Christmas Mass at the Vatican always began at midnight, even in 2004 — Pope John Paul II’s last Christmas.
But Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, assured the Italian newspaper Il Giornale that there was nothing to worry about.
“There is no alarm of any kind regarding the health of the pontiff,” he said. “It was a decision made almost two months ago. The choice of beginning at 10 p.m. was made to allow Benedict XVI to tire himself less and so that he could retire earlier given that he reads his (Christmas) message the next day.”
“Instead of beginning at midnight, the Mass will end at that hour,” Father Lombardi said.
At noon on Christmas Day, the pope will read his message and give his blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).