Vatican updates guidelines for Holy Week liturgies during coronavirus

After dioceses throughout the world suspended public Masses amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Congregation for Divine Worship has updated its decree on Holy Week liturgies.

The Congregation for Eastern Churches issued a similar decree.

“Given that the date of Easter cannot be transferred, in the countries which have been struck by the disease and where restrictions around the assembly and movement of people have been imposed, Bishops and priests may celebrate the rites of Holy Week without the presence of the people and in a suitable place, avoiding concelebration and omitting the sign of peace,” states the updated decree issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship March 25.

The document recommends that parishes and dioceses inform Catholics of times of Easter Sunday Mass and other Holy Week liturgies, so that “they can prayerfully unite themselves in their homes” via live broadcast or streaming, if possible.

“In any event it remains important to dedicate adequate time to prayer, giving importance above all to the Liturgia Horarum.”

The Congregation for Eastern Churches also issued recommendations March 25, while calling on the heads of all Eastern Catholic Churches to issue norms sui iuris in accordance with the measures established by civil authorities for containment of the contagion.

The recommendations for Eastern Catholic rites include maintaining feast days on the liturgical calendar by live broadcast, limiting participation of the choir, and encouraging prayer at home.

On Good Friday, Eastern Catholics are encouraged to read the texts of their traditions for prayer around the Cross and the tomb of Christ. On the night of Pascha, families are also invited to ring festive bells, light a lamp, sing traditional songs, and read the Gospel of the Resurrection.

“Any baptisms scheduled for Easter are postponed to another date,” the letter signed by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the congregation, states.

The updated decree by the Congregation for Divine Worship reiterates the guidelines issued on March 19 for the liturgies of Holy Week in areas where there are restrictions on public gatherings from civil and Church authorities:

Palm Sunday – The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem is to be celebrated within sacred buildings; in Cathedral churches the second form given in the Roman Missal is to be adopted; in parish churches and in other places the third form is to be used.

The Chrism Mass – Evaluating the concrete situation in different countries, the Episcopal Conferences will be able to give indications about a possible transfer to another date.

Holy Thursday – The washing of feet, which is already optional, is to be omitted. At the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the procession is also omitted and the Blessed Sacrament is to be kept in the tabernacle. On this day the faculty to celebrate Mass in a suitable place, without the presence of the people, is exceptionally granted to all priests.

Good Friday – In the Universal Prayer, Bishops will arrange to have a special intention prepared for those who find themselves in distress, the sick, the dead, (cf. Missale Romanum). The adoration of the Cross by kissing it shall be limited solely to the celebrant.

The Easter Vigil – Is to be celebrated only in Cathedral and parish churches. For the “Baptismal Liturgy” only the “Renewal of Baptismal Promises” is maintained (cf. Missale Romanum).

“The Episcopal Conferences and individual dioceses will see to it that resources are provided to support family and personal prayer,” the decree states.

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