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Cardinal urges Catholics to celebrate Christmas safely

Archdiocesan chief healthcare ethicist MC Sullivan looks at as Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley addresses the media about options for safely celebrating Christmas Masses at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross Dec. 22. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

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BOSTON -- For many, attending Mass on Christmas is an essential part of the holiday. On Dec. 22, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley spoke to the media from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross about the options the faithful have to safely celebrate this cherished tradition during the pandemic.

"Despite all of these challenges and difficulties (during the coronavirus pandemic) we will celebrate Christmas; in smaller groups, with some attending Mass in person and others watching Mass live-streamed from their parish or on Catholic television," Cardinal O'Malley said.

With the cardinal was MC Sullivan, the archdiocese's chief healthcare ethicist and a member of the Archdiocesan Pandemic Response Team. She spoke at length about the archdiocese's work over the course of the pandemic and outlined how people can safely celebrate Christmas Mass.

"We are asking local parishes to encourage everyone to participate in the Christmas Mass in whatever form they can while maintaining safety. Safety is never to be compromised in this. That is part of our teaching, that we look out for each other, that we promote the common good," Sullivan said.

"If anyone feels unwell, we ask that they stay home and take care of themselves, and their family and their community, by taking advantage of these (remote) options rather than attend an in-person Mass," Sullivan said.

Sullivan and the cardinal spoke about the three options for participating in Mass this Christmas: in person, via television, or online. Cardinal O'Malley is letting pastors decide whether or not to hold public Masses in their parishes, based on the circumstances of their communities.

Cardinal O'Malley urged those who watch the Mass on television "to participate fully, to make it a truly sacred event in your life."

"We certainly want to encourage people to make that a spiritual experience, not just tuning in like you're watching any other television program, but to really unite yourself spiritually with those who are praying this Mass," he said.

Sullivan listed the safety measures that must be observed when attending Mass in person. Churches remain limited to 40 percent maximum occupancy. Masks must be worn, social distancing must be observed, and the churches must be sanitized between Masses. Despite the cold weather, doors and windows should be opened to allow ventilation. There can be no congregational singing. Pre-registration is encouraged, and if registration for a Mass is full, there should be a notice of it on the parish website.

Sullivan spoke about the importance of spiritual care. In a year of so much "change and uncertainty," she said, "I think people are looking for any sense of what they know, and what has been comforting for them, and what has been a source of joy for them." This makes Christmas Mass in the Catholic community "very important this year."

"This year, perhaps more than any in recent memory, we need the hope and promise of the Christ child, the light leading us through fear and uncertainty to assure us of God's love for all people," Cardinal O'Malley said.

The Christmas Mass television schedule is as follows:

Christmas Eve:

-- 8 p.m.: Midnight Mass from St. Peter's with Pope Francis -- CatholicTV

-- 11 p.m.: Christmas Mass from Bethlehem -- CatholicTV

-- 12 midnight: Midnight Mass with Cardinal Seán at the Cathedral -- CatholicTV

Christmas Day:

-- 8 a.m.: Christmas Mass with Cardinal Seán -- WLVI-TV, Ch. 56

-- 9:30 a.m.: Christmas Mass with Cardinal Seán -- CatholicTV

-- 12 p.m.: Christmas Mass with Cardinal Seán -- WHDH-TV, Ch. 7

-- 5 p.m.: Christmas Mass from the National Shrine -- CatholicTV

-- 5:30 p.m.: La Santa Misa (Spanish Christmas Mass) -- CatholicTV

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