NEW YORK — Thousands returned to the pews of St. Patrick's Cathedral for the midnight Christmas Mass.

The Mass in Midtown was held at full capacity despite the recent COVID-19 surge. Parishioners were required to wear masks, and some traditions, including the sign of peace handshake and sacramental wine distribution, were omitted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan emphasized the importance of spending Christmas at houses of worship.

"I propose we really have our Christmas right here, at Mass, as we gather in faith and joy with family and friends," Dolan said. Mayor-elect Eric Adams and outgoing NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea were among those who attended the Mass.

The in-person mass came as numerous churches across the United States canceled in-person Christmas services due to the surge of coronavirus cases. Other churches planned outdoor services or proposed a hybrid of online and in-person worship, often imposing tight restrictions for those in attendance. These included requirements to wear masks and show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Among the prominent churches canceling some or all of their in-person Christmas services were Washington National Cathedral in the nation's capital; St. John the Divine, the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York; and the historic Old South Church in Boston.

St. John Divine said it was shifting all Christmas services to online-only, using its Facebook page and YouTube channel.

"The time has come once again to put the needs and concerns of our wider community first," the cathedral said on its website.


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