Christmas Mass in English Celebrated Near Vatican

Anglophile Pilgrims Find Community in Rome

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In a Church just around the corner from the Vatican, English-speaking pilgrims to Rome will have the opportunity to attend Christmas Mass in their native language.

Christmas Mass will be celebrated at 10am the morning of the 25th at the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia.

The Mass is celebrated for English-speaking pilgrims every Sunday throughout the year, a continuation of an initiative which began during the Year of Faith under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Fr. Geno Sylva, a New Jersey native and official of the Pontifical Council, has led the initiative from the beginning along with the Religious Sisters of Mercy.

Although typically only celebrated on Sundays, Fr. Sylva told ZENIT that this year’s Mass on Christmas Day comes in response to numerous requests from those who wish to attend Mass close to the Vatican.

“We want to make sure that people have the opportunity [to attend Mass in their native language],” he said. “Being that Christmas midnight Mass is inside, and there are only so many people who can get tickets to go, we’ll provide the English Mass for those who unfortunately will not be able to attend the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.”

“It’s exciting to provide pilgrims to the tomb of the Apostle Peter the opportunity to participate in the celebration of Holy Mass in their native language so that it deepens their own faith, their journey with Christ,» he added.

Christmas morning Mass also will accommodate both the “regulars” who attend the English Liturgy every Sunday, and those who are in Rome for a short while.

“We have two communities at Santo Spirito,” Fr. Sylva said. First: “The women and men who are there almost every week because they live here in Rome, or they work here in Rome, or they are here just a couple of months.” Second: The pilgrims, who make up the majority of attendees.

“It’s our hope that [these pilgrims] experience an evangelizing liturgy,” he said. He also finds that they experience a sense of welcome and community from the “regulars” who attend the Mass.

“The warmth that they feel, and the welcome that they receive each Sunday, is so important. To be able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ so close to the tomb of the Apostle Peter, in one’s native language of prayer, is truly the holiest of experiences.”

“As Archbishop Fisichella [president of the pontifical council] says so beautifully: ‘As Catholics, we never travel alone’.”

“We think that this Mass in English is one of the continuing Graces of the Year of Faith,” Fr. Sylva said. “Each Sunday, as we move into the future, English-speaking pilgrims can come to hear the word of God in their own language, can enter fully in Holy Mass, and hopefully come to understand even more deeply the Church’s essential mission of the New Evangelization.”

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Ann Schneible

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