The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued guidelines on Ash Wednesday for the celebration of Holy Week this year in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The text offers basic guidelines to assist bishops in their task of providing for the spiritual welfare of pastors and faithful in living this great week in the Church’s liturgical year. The Covid-19 pandemic presents the key challenge once again this year in celebrating these liturgies normally. The Note calls for “prudent decisions in order that the liturgy can be celebrated fruitfully for the People of God … while respecting the safeguarding of health and what has been prescribed by the authorities responsible for the common good.”
The Congregation refers to a Decree it issued on 25th March 2020 and notes that the guidelines offered for the celebration of Holy Week in that document may be followed this year as well. Situations vary from country to country, where some have strict lockdown conditions making it impossible for the faithful to gather in church, while others have returned to a more normal pattern of worship.
The Note highlights how the use of social media has greatly assisted the local Church “in offering support and closeness to their communities during the pandemic”. It suggests that this media outreach continue and encourages the faithful who are unable to attend their own church to follow diocesan celebrations as a sign of unity.
The text also recalls the importance of returning to a normal experience of Christian life through the physical presence of the faithful at Mass, where circumstances permit, as was noted in a letter from August of last year that the Congregation addressed to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences worldwide entitled “Let us return to the Eucharist with joy!”
Finally, the Note says the Chrism Mass can be moved to another more suitable day, if necessary, and that suitable aids for family and personal prayer are encouraged.