(BREITBART) – Bethlehem on Thursday ushered in Christmas Eve with a stream of joyous marching bands and the triumphant arrival of the top Catholic clergyman in the Holy Land, but few people were there to greet them as the coronavirus pandemic and a strict lockdown dampened celebrations in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
Similar subdued scenes were repeated across the world as the festive family gatherings and packed prayers that typically mark the holiday were scaled back or canceled altogether.
On Christmas Eve in Italy, church bells rang earlier than usual. The Italian government’s 10 pm curfew prompted pastors to move up services, with “Midnight” Mass starting Thursday evening in some churches as early as a couple hours after dark. Pope Francis, who has said people “must obey” civil authorities’ measures to fight the spread of Covid-19, fell in line. This year, the Christmas vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica was moved up from 9:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
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