Pope Francis meets migrants at the diocesan Caritas center in Rabat, Morocco, Saturday, March 30, 2019. Francis’s weekend trip to Morocco aims to highlight the North African nation’s tradition of Christian-Muslim ties while also letting him show solidarity with migrants at Europe’s door and tend to a tiny Catholic flock on the peripheries. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis meets migrants at the diocesan Caritas center in Rabat, Morocco, Saturday, March 30, 2019. Francis’s weekend trip to Morocco aims to highlight the North African nation’s tradition of Christian-Muslim ties while also letting him show solidarity with migrants at Europe’s door and tend to a tiny Catholic flock on the peripheries. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope cancels nativity visit as virus surges

Francis is going ahead with his traditional Dec. 31 vespers service

Pope Francis cancelled his New Year’s Eve tradition of visiting the life-sized Nativity scene set up in St. Peter’s Square to discourage large crowds from forming.

Meanwhile, major Italian cities scrapped their traditional Dec. 31 open-air concerts as Italy battles a record-setting surge in coronavirus cases.

Francis is going ahead with his traditional Dec. 31 vespers service inside the basilica and will celebrate New Year’s Day Mass as scheduled.

The Vatican has largely followed Italy’s lead in imposing restrictions on crowds. Many Italian cities are opting for streamed concerts or theatrical productions where access by the public can be controlled to check for health passes.

In addition, the city of Naples banned the use of fireworks outright in a bid to keep crowds from forming in a city known for its explosive Dec. 31 festivities.

The Associated Press

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