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Parishioners Attend First In-Person Christmas Eve Services Since 2019

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- People gathered Friday throughout the Tri-State Area for Christmas Eve mass. The beloved tradition was in-person after going virtual last year because of COVID-19.

Despite the Omicron variant raging in the community, the midnight mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral is going at full capacity, as planned, CBS2's Kiran Dhillon reported.

Parishioners gathered outside St. Patrick's to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

"He came to save us all from our sins and give us freedom," said Amy Storrie.

The spirit of Christmas was alive at a church in Bayside, Queens.

Christmas for the Stein family always starts with mass.

"It's nice to have gifts and family around, but the whole point of Christmas is for the spirit of Christmas. It's Jesus's birthday," said Jack Stein.

Christmas mass has a special meaning to many.

"My mother passed this year, back in May, and she loved always coming to mass at Christmastime in the church. So my sister and I both decided to come and be with her here," another churchgoer said.

This mass was also special for Bishop Robert Brennan. It was his first as newly-installed Bishop of the diocese serving Brooklyn and Queens.

The mass -- and several at St. Patrick's -- went on as planned. Christmas services at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine were moved online.

Bishop Brennan said the parish's services throughout the weekend will be available online for those who do not feel comfortable. Most other houses of worship are doing the same.

Brennan said it was important for Christmas Eve mass to take place in-person.

"People are taking all of those precautions and wearing masks and staying apart," Brennan said. "For Catholics, the idea of encounter is very, very important... Encounter, we come together to be together with each other and then together to be together with Jesus Christ."

Many parishioners said they were concerned about COVID, but missing Christmas Eve mass for the second year in a row was something they just didn't want to do.

"We were concerned, but it's a special day, a special night. So, we took our chances," said Mary Servillo.

"I was tested yesterday, and I felt we felt safe enough with everybody being responsible and social distancing and wearing masks," said Annie Servillo.

Many said fellow parishioners are like family, and it was important to spend Christmas Eve together.

CBS2's Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report.

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