By Leslie Ann Aquino
Pope Francis will celebrate the traditional Aguinaldo mass for the Filipino community in Rome on December 15.
It will be the first time that the pontiff will preside over such a Mass at the St. Peter’s Basilica.
“This is the fourth year that we celebrate it in the basilica but the first time that the Pope will be the one to preside,” Scalabrinian Fr. Ricky Gente of the Filipino Chaplaincy in Rome, said in a CBCP News post.
About 150 priests are also concelebrating the mass including Cardinal Vicar Angelo de Donatis, the Vicar of Rome, and Fr. Leonir Chiarello, head of the Scalabrinians worldwide.
Philippine ambassador to the Holy See Grace Relucio-Princesa and the country’s envoy to Italy Domingo Nolasco are also attending the occasion.
Attending Aguinaldo masses or Misa de Gallo (dawn mass) is one of the most distinctive and enduring traditions of Christmas in the Philippines.
Fr. Gente said that as much as they want to accommodate more Filipinos to attend the 4:30 am mass, only 7,500 churchgoers will be able to enter the basilica.
“We have thousands of Filipinos who requested entry but we are not allowed to go beyond that sitting capacity of the basilica,” he said.
Since Aguinaldo masses are held for nine consecutive days leading up to Christmas, the rest of their celebrations will be held at the Santa Pudenziana Basilica.
The 4th-century edifice was designated as the official church of the Filipinos by pope-turned-saint John Paul II.