Sanitary Constraints Weigh Heavily on the Vatican as Christmas Approaches

December 08, 2020

Quarantine of the new cardinals before the consistory, cancellation of the main liturgical events of Christmas and New Year’s Day: the restrictions decreed in order to fight against the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have brought down a wall of silence on the Vatican.

The images are sometimes misleading. When at the end of the ordinary consistory of November 28, 2020, the eleven cardinals were presented by the reigning sovereign pontiff, to former Pope Benedict XVI, some noted the absence of virus safeguards: enough to scandalize the media more scrupulous in respecting health standards than in the rules of faith and morals.

But Benedict XVI’s private secretary, Bishop Georg Gänswein - also prefect of the Pontifical House - was on the lookout, quick to reassure the most worried: “the cardinals newly appointed by Pope Francis have all tested negative for coronavirus,” spoke immediately afterward  to the KNA press agency to clarify.

In addition, as a precaution, the new porporati had all been quarantined in the days leading up to the ordinary public consistory ceremony, said the archbishop, who is still responsible for overseeing the current Roman pontiff’s agenda.

There was no question for them being present for lunch together at St. Martha’s House in the company of Pope Francis: the meals were served to them on a tray placed at the door of each cell.

Until the Gammarelli sign, who had to deliver the trousseaus to the eleven cardinals without contact: a high-end version of the "click and collect,” but a heresy in the eyes of the illustrious Roman tailor, used to making clothes to measure for the senior Vatican prelates.

A heavy climate that does not seem to be easing: the prefecture of the Pontifical House confirmed on December 1, 2020, the cancellation or suspension of most of the public events scheduled for the month of December.

Only the Angelus and the Wednesday audience - streaming - are being maintained, along with the Urbi et Orbi blessing, on December 25, from the top of the loggia of the Vatican basilica.

So the traditional homage to the Immaculate Conception on the Spanish Steps on December 8th is gone. Christmas Eve, the Nativity Masses, and the Te Deum of December 31, are not scheduled, for the time being, on the site of the Holy See: ceremonies which, if they take place, will be in a most restricted framework.

The date of the Holy Father’s end-of-year speech to the Roman Curia is still pending.