December 24th, 2009
Peter John Glynn
Has Health and Safety finally forced churches to abandon one of its oldest and best loved traditions? Churches in the UK have always started services around 11pm so that they continue into Christmas Day to mark the arrival of Jesus into the world.
However in recent years many have begun to move Midnight Mass services forward to earlier in the evening, to stop them being interrupted by drunks staggering out of the pubs or to make them more user friendly for young families and the elderly to attend and return home safely afterwards.
Some Roman Catholic churches are starting the service, renamed the First Mass of Christmas or Vigil Mass, around 8pm.
Among the earliest found is St Teresa of the Child Jesus Church in Liverpool, where the inappropriately named Midnight Mass will take place at the improbable time of 6pm.
Several churches are holding the service early in the evening so it coincides nicely with midnight in Bethlehem, which , conveniently , is two hours ahead of the UK.
Holy Trinity and All Saints in Winterton, Norfolk calls its service “Moonlight Mass” and the blurb states: “All the mystery and wonder of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, but at a slightly earlier time. As the Mass reaches its climax a bell chimes to tell us is it is midnight in Bethlehem the place of Christ's birth. Mulled wine and mince pies to follow.”
Meanwhile , over in the Vatican , Midnight Mass was brought forward two hours so that the Pope doesn't get too tired to deliver his Christmas Message in the morning. Unfortunately the Pontiff suffered a security scare when a 'mentally unstable' woman leapt a barrier and tumbled the 82 year old to the floor. She was the same person who tried to jump a barricade to get close to the Pope at last year's Christmas Mass, the spokesman said.
MaryBeth Burns from Paris, Texas, was about four people away from the woman who jumped the barriers and was filming the pope's procession as the commotion started.
"I'm really mad because I had a perfect shot lined up," she said. "I'm still shaking."
Burns, who was visiting Italy with her family on a religious pilgrimage for Christmas, said the security guards immediately pulled the woman to the ground and the pope tumbled with them.
Also involved was Cardinal Roger Etchegaray who was taken to hospital after being given first aid in the Basilica. He is reported as suffering a fractured femur.
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