Holy Week services return to churches closed last Easter by COVID
This past April, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield marked Easter morning with the bell tower ringing as masses have been suspended and the churches closed in mid-Lent by the diocese in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Practicing Catholics in the four counties of western Massachusetts that the diocese covers were informed at the time that Bishop Mitchell Rozanski celebrate television “Chalice of Salvation” Mass on Easter Sunday on WWLP Channel 22.
This year, many observances related to Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday, March 28, and includes Good Friday as well as Holy Saturday leading to Easter Sunday, April 4, will return with some modifications to the parishes. diocesan women who began, like other houses of worship in the state, to reopening for services in May under state direction.
The celebrations of Holy Week will be guided by the diocesan regulations as well as mandatory safety standards in the Commonwealth which passes on Monday March 1 to phase 3, stage 2, of its gradual reopening.
Diocesan protocols stipulate, among other guidelines, that Palm Sunday processions should be minimized or omitted and “very strict social distancing observed”; the evening mass of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday should not include the rite of washing the feet; The veneration of the cross on Good Friday could be a silent collective prayer before the cross made by the faithful who remained on their pews.
“As we enter our second Lent season in COVID, we must once again adapt to our circumstances with creative zeal,” Bishop William Byrne said in a February 26 letter to the clergy announcing the diocesan regulations of the Holy Week.
The guidelines and protocols are based on the Vatican recommendations published last year as infected travelers spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes the respiratory illness that has disrupted life around the world from China where it was first detected in late 2019.
Governor Charlie Baker’s statement of a emergency state in the Commonwealth last March, as COVID-19 cases increased in the state, followed by regulations who ordered the temporary closure of services considered non-essential and restricted indoor gatherings at the time to 10 people or less.
The state began to relax some regulations in May and continues its reopening schedule towards phase 4, which has been cut short. “the new normalAs recent data tracks the decline in the number of deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Massachusetts. A number of factors are behind this, including the introduction of vaccines against the virus in December and the continuation of preventive measures.
The mandatory safety standards for phase 3 places of worship, in particular respecting the capacity at 50% of the authorized occupancy, as well as the wearing of face coverings and the maintenance of social distancing requirements.
Dozens of COVID-19 clusters linked to places of worship and hundreds of new cases of respiratory illness were identified in early December, prompting Baker to ask “all of our religious leaders and practicing residents to commit to safe protocols, policies and procedures.”
The State, on its website, says places of worship are “encouraged to hold services virtually or off-site” and are required to report to their local board of health in the community where a service has taken place if a participant tests positive for COVID-19 .
The recommendations of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments note “that a more normal model of worship is being resumed” in some countries.
Members of many faiths, including Christians, Jews and Muslims, have turned to remote services during the pandemic, although the announcement of the Vatican directives would have referred to the “problematic aspects” observed about it and encouraged social media to be used for “the faithful who cannot attend their own church to follow the celebrations diocesan as a sign of unity “.
Some parishes in the Diocese of Springfield have started posting on the diocesan site their Holy Week services, including which will be broadcast live during the Paschal Triduum, which begins with the Lord’s Supper Mass on Holy Thursday April 1.
The display for St. Michel’s parish in East Longmeadow shows that if seating is reached for Easter Sunday Masses at 8, 10 and noon, the liturgies, in addition to being broadcast live, will be broadcast on a radio station so that they can be heard by the participants in their cars who also be able to receive Holy Communion after Mass.