WATCH: Pope Francis celebrates 1st-ever Simbang Gabi in the Vatican

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Vatican's Simbang Gabi
Pope Francis receives a statue of the Sto. Nino of Cebu from Rome’s Filipino chaplain Fr. Ricky Gente. Screengrab EWTN via CBCP News

Pope Francis marked a milestone for the Filipino Catholic community as he celebrated the Vatican’s first-ever Papal-led “Simbang Gabi (Dawn/Night Novena Mass)” on Sunday.

The Filipino Catholic community in Rome experienced the historic celebration of the Simbang Gabi Papal mass on December 15 in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The Simbang Gabi Novena Mass began with the singing of the first of the Filipino liturgical celebration songs sung at the Mass as Pope Francis arrived at the church altar. The Filipino community Mass, with readings delivered in Filipino, English, and Italian, was concelebrated by 150 priests with an estimated 7,500 Filipinos in attendance.

“In the Philippines, for centuries, there has been a novena in preparation for Christmas called Simbang Gabi, ‘Mass of the night’. During the nine days the Filipino faithful gather at dawn in their parishes for a special Eucharistic celebration,” Pope Francis said during the mass viewed all over the world via EWTN Livestream.

“Through this celebration we want to prepare ourselves for Christmas according to the spirit of the Word of God that we have listened to, remaining constant until the Lord’s definitive coming,” the leader of the Roman Catholic faithful said in his homily for the Filipino community in Rome.

Pope Francis gives his blessings at the end of the Simbang Gabi. Screengrab EWTN.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines News report notes that the Philippines’ Simbang Gabi Christmas tradition of attending early morning Masses for nine days before Christmas dates back to the 17th century.

“In recent decades, thanks to Filipino migrants, this devotion has crossed national borders and has arrived in many other countries. Simbang-Gabi has also been celebrated in the diocese of Rome for years, and today we celebrate it together here, in St. Peter’s Basilica,” Pope Francis said during the Mass for the Filipino community.

Fr. Ricky Gente, the chaplain for the Filipino community in Rome, addressed the Pope following the Mass, “Almost 500 years ago, European missionaries planted the seed of faith in our beloved Philippines. We are happy and blessed because after five centuries we are here in Europe and throughout the world transmitting the joy and beauty of the Gospel.”

Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu leads the kick-off to the 500-day countdown to April 14, 2021, marking the Commemoration of the First Baptism Rajah Humabon, Hara Humumay, and 800 natives baptized on the island of Cebu in 1521. Photo was taken at the Magellan’s Cross in Cebu City on December 1 by Sammy Navaja.

In 2021, the Church in the Philippines will celebrate the 500-year anniversary of the arrival of the Christian faith in the Southeast Asian archipelago when the Spanish galleon fleet led by Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Mactan in 1521.

“Yes, it is true, we carry with us everywhere we go the torch of faith and of the Gospel in the world, the same faith and Gospel that have been transmitted to us. This is why today, here in front of you, you find a happy and smiling people because the flame of faith continues to burn intensely in our hearts,” the Filipino priest said.

Fr. Gente then gave a Sto. Nino statue to Pope Francis who celebrates his 83rd birthday on December 17.

Some 7,500 Filipinos attended the Simbang Gabi mass by Pope Francis. Credits to Martin Gomez.

Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle is set to join Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2020 after being appointed as the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

WATCH the Simbang Gabi Novena Mass by Pope Francis here and TELL US in the comments below of your own best experiences of Simbang Gabi!

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