Pope Francis, who was scheduled to preside at the singing of the Te Deum in St. Peter’s basilica on December 31, bowed out of that role, but delivered a homily at the annual service.
The Pontiff traditionally leads the Te Deum on the last day of the year, with leaders of the Roman Curia joining him in the prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings of the year. The program for the event had indicated that Pope Francis would preside. But instead Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals, led the service.
The last-minute change was likely to intensify speculation about the Pope’s health—particularly because he had also cancelled plans to visit the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square the same day.
However the Pope did attend, and delivered a prepared homily, in which his focus was on the Virgin Mary. (The Te Deum was sung in the evening, along with evening prayers for the vigil of the feast of Mary, Mother of God.) He remarked that Mary is the greatest possible witness to the Nativity, because while she was “filled with amazement,” she was at the same time “without the shadow of romanticism, of sweeteners, of spiritualization.”
The Pontiff went on to say that in the past year, the Covid epidemic had given many people “a sense of being lost,” and even worse, in many people a belief that it was “everyone out for themselves.” He expressed his gratitude that “we reacted again with a sense of responsibility.”