By Analou De Vera
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued recommendations for the observance of Holy Week amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon due to the threat of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The CBCP said due to the ongoing circumstances, the social, economic, and religious life of the faithful “are painfully hit by the ‘social distancing’ that is a necessity at this time of pandemic to stem the transmission of the virus.”
“It is in this context that we are offering all our dioceses these liturgico-pastoral recommendations to keep a balance of the centrality of the celebrations of the Paschal Triduum and the demands of the measures to stem the transmission of the COVID-19,” said CBCP President and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles in CBCP Circular No. 20-15.
“The balance has to be met, in the one hand, of the essentials of the celebrations, and on the other, the accommodations due to the precautions to stem the transmission of the virus,” he added.
Valles said priests should continue to “celebrate the Holy Week and Paschal Triduum” even in the absence of the faithful.
“The celebrations will be simpler this year because of the absence of our faithful, but we will make every effort to keep the dignity and solemnity of our celebrations by following the liturgical form by which the Church has entrusted to us these celebrations,” Valles said.
Valles urged the faithful to follow the live streaming of the celebrations, adding that every diocese is encouraged to live stream them.
“Our families will come together to celebrate the great mysteries of our faith, uniting themselves with the local Church through the celebrations transmitted through the internet, TV, or radio,” he said.
During Palm Sunday, the faithful who are following the Mass celebration on television can hold their palm branches, while the prayer of blessing of palms is prayed by the presider, adding that there is no need for holy water to bless the palm branches.
Another recommendation of Valles is that the presider “can go around the streets of the parish at a previously announced time, to bless the palms without using holy water, of the faithful who wait in front of their homes. The priest makes the sign of the cross as he passes through the streets.”
During the Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday, the celebration must be simplified because of the absence of the faithful, the choir, and other lay ministers. The faithful may follow the celebration on the internet, TV or radio.
“Only the clergy will be allowed to be inside the Cathedral/church, observing social distance, hygiene, and sanitation of the space for the liturgical celebration,” Valles noted.
During the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the explanatory rite of the Washing of the Feet may be omitted or simplified, adding that the “altar of repose will be set in the sacristy, a simple tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament may be reposed.”
“There is an option that after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, without the faithful, the priest, with only two or three ministers, will carry the Blessed Sacrament in a ciborium with humeral veil, rides on a pick-up vehicle and goes to all the streets within the parish,” the CBCP said.
This will be the Visita Iglesias of the faithful this year, “with people with lighted candles wait in front of their homes, as someone may read repeatedly the Gospel Narrative of the Last Supper during the procession,” they added.
During the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, the diocese may offer reflections on the Passion of the Lord to the faithful through the use of TV, internet, and radio, before the celebration of the Veneration of the Cross.
“After the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, without the faithful, the presider in red cope or red stole over a surplice and cassock, rides a pick-up vehicle as he carries a crucifix and goes to all the the streets of the parish,” the CBCP said. “People with lighted candles wait in front of their homes to venerate the Cross by kneeling down.”
Valles said the clergy may reduce the number of readings as allowed by the Missal during the Easter Vigil, adding that the number of ministers need to be regulated also for this celebration, including the choir.
“After the Easter Vigil Celebration, without the faithful, the presider with humeral veil rides on a pick-up carrying the Blessed Sacrament in monstrance, goes around the parish,” Valles said.
“The parishioners with lighted candles may bring to the door or windows of their homes the statue of the Blessed Mother. This becomes the Salubong of the parish this year.”
The observance of Holy Week this year will begin on April 5, Palm Sunday until April 12, Easter Sunday.