Christmas is a magical time of year by itself. If you add Italy to that mix, it becomes a fairytale. While the Eternal City offers an extensive list of festive celebrations, seeing the Pope present his Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican is at the top. Read on to find out everything you need to know about attending the Vatican Christmas Mass and other papal ceremonies during the holidays.
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Christmas Eve Mass
Regardless of religion, the Vatican Christmas Mass is a special occasion that spreads unity and peace. Not to mention, you see Pope Francis deliver the most watched mass in the world. Join a congregation of roughly 15,000 people to ring in the joyful holiday. Some people may think there’s an obvious answer to the question “what time is the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at the Vatican?.” Don’t be fooled; it’s not as obvious as you’d think. The Christmas Eve “Midnight” Mass is on December 24th at 9:15pm–not midnight.
Where is it?
The Christmas Eve Mass is traditionally celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica. If you’ve ever been inside this massive cathedral, you can understand the profound piousness of the site. This ancient Roman style basilica captivates audiences just from its exquisite design. Add a Papal mass to the mix and you’ve got quite a spectacle.
If you’ve never seen the inside of the Basilica, you should consider taking a guided tour of it during your stay in Rome. When it’s all filled with people, it can be easy to miss all of the iconic detail that makes the Basilica so famous.
How to get tickets?
All tickets are free. Keep in mind that tickets to attend the Vatican Christmas Mass are immensely requested so you’ll need to plan ahead.
Here’s the process:
- Book in advance. The Vatican recommends booking 2-6 months ahead of time.
- Know you have a bigger chance of receiving your tickets if you reserve a smaller number. For example, a group or family of 2-6 people will have more of a shot than a group of 15 people.
- Send a fax. Find a PDF version of the form here. Fax number: +39 06 698 85863. (My fellow millennials, accept this challenge and believe anything is possible.)
- You’ll receive an old school letter from the Vatican (cool souvenir?) confirming that they received your request. This is not a confirmation of your tickets.
- When you arrive in Rome, you need to confirm you have tickets.
- Go to the Prefettura Vaticana. This is an office on the right-hand side of the Basilica, just after the unmissable “Bronze Doors”. Find the location here.
- This step should be completed 3-5 days before the mass. Hours of Prefettura Vaticana: 8am-6pm
- Get ready to celebrate!
For those who didn’t get tickets, join the masses outside in St. Peter’s Square for a live televised version. Arrive early for both settings, as it gets pretty crowded.
Other Papal Ceremonies
If Christmas Eve isn’t the cards for you, fear not! There are many other opportunities to see the Pope and walk away with the experience of a lifetime.
- December 25th: Urbi et Orbi, 12pm in St. Peter’s Square. No tickets required.
- December 26th: Angelus/Papal Blessing, 12pm in Saint Peter’s Square. No tickets required.
- Papal Audience: Almost every Sunday, assuming the Pope is in town, he conducts his Papal, or General, Audience. This is not technically a mass. Instead, the Pope addresses the audience with a themed speech followed by different blessings (in various languages) and hymns. Tickets are free, but required.
- Easter Mass: the process is exactly the same as the Christmas Eve Mass, including the free tickets. However, book now! Just as with the Christmas Eve Mass, tickets are limited on a first come, first serve basis.
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