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Pope to Hold Christmas Eve Mass Under Tight Security - 2001-12-24

Pope John Paul II is preparing to celebrate the traditional Christmas Eve Mass in the Vatican. Like every year, crowds of Italians and tourists visiting Rome are expected to attend the special gathering. Security will be tighter than usual this year at the Vatican. Authorities are taking no chances following the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

St. Peter's Basilica is considered to be a sensitive target and, officials fear that the Pope's midnight Mass could be a perfect opportunity for terrorists.

From early Monday morning, security measures had been tightened in and around St. Peter's Square. Bags were being checked and tourists made to walk through metal detectors.

This year, Pope John Paul will be celebrating Mass indoors unlike last year when he said Mass under the rain in St. Peter's Square.

A beautifully decorated Christmas tree and a crĨche have been placed in the center of St. Peter's Square.

The tree this year comes from Romania and a special lighting ceremony was held last week with Romanian President Ion Iliescu. Following a tradition that started in 1982, each year a different country provides the Christmas tree for St. Peter's Square.

During his homily to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the 81-year-old Pope is likely to speak about recent world tensions.

The Pope has on various occasions recently spoken out against terrorism and in favor of peace. He has declared that nothing justifies terrorism adding that a war on terrorism can be just but only if it follows certain moral rules.

Pope John Paul's words will be followed by 65 television stations from 47 countries that will link-up live with the Vatican to celebrate the Pope's midnight Mass.

On Christmas Day, the Pope will be giving his traditional message and blessing to the city and to the world.