Pope Benedict XVI ushered in Christmas as midnight struck at the Vatican, leading the celebration of Midnight Mass in the splendor of St. Peter's Basilica. Thousands of pilgrims, Romans, and tourists packed the basilica for the midnight service given by the 81-year-old pope. For those unable to enter, giant screens were set up in St. Peter's Square.
Earlier, Benedict appeared briefly at his studio window to bless the crowd and light a single candle in a sign of peace. The Vatican's Christmas festivities began with the unveiling of the larger-than-life Nativity scene next to the Vatican's largest-ever Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square. Tomorrow, Benedict delivers his traditional Christmas Day "Urbi et Orbi" speech—Latin for "to the city and to the world"—in which he often touches on current events and issues of concern to the Vatican.