How to Celebrate Holy Week During Community Quarantine

Over 85 million Filipino Catholics will have to prepare for an entirely different way of observing Holy Week  this year as we are still in the midst of an enhanced community quarantine to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.

Churches have been closed to the public since the second week of March. Because of this masses, including those during Holy Week, will be livestreamed on social media, TV, and radio instead. The devout Filipino Catholic community will have to forgo their usual Lenten practices, such as Visita Iglesias (visiting various churches during Holy Week), and the Good Friday procession, among others.

Unlike in the past, parishioners cannot attend the Easter Vigil inside the church, they can do so in their homes [photo from the Manila Cathedral]

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines or CBCP recently issued a Circular No. 20-15 containing “Recommendations for the Celebrations of the Holy Week During the Quarantine Period”. “We remind all priests that we will continue to celebrate the Holy Week and Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday) even in the absence of our assembly. 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…” cited Romulo  G. Valles, D.D., Archbishop of Davao and President of the CBCP, who issued and signed the circular.

CBCP issued the recommendations on March 20 “to keep a balance of the centrality of the celebrations (Holy Week) and the demands of the measures to stem the transmission of the Covid-19. 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.”

On Palm Sunday, people are just urged to hold their palm branches (or any available branch of leaves) in front of a screen since some people watch livestreams of masses via their TV, PC, laptop, or cellphone. The second option is a priest roaming the streets of the parish to bless the palms without using Holy Water.

Here are CBCP’s recommendations for the rest of the Holy Week, from Maundy Thursday (April 9) to Easter Sunday (April 9).

  • Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday: The practice of the “Washing of the Feet” may be omitted or simplified (reduced number of persons whose feet are washed). 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  rides on a pick up vehicle and goes to all the streets within the parish. This becomes the Visita Iglesias of the faithful this year. People with lighted candles wait in front of their homes. Someone may read repeatedly the Gospel Narrative of the Last Supper, during the procession.
  • The rite of the “Washing of the Feet” , may be omitted or simplified with reduced number of persons whose feet are washed [photo from the Manila Cathedral]

  • Good Friday Veneration of the Cross: Faithful reflections on the Passion of the Lord will be  through 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. People with lighted candles wait in front of their homes to venerate the Cross by kneeling down.
  • Easter Vigil (Black Saturday): The number of readings can be reduced an the number of needed ministers needs to be regulated also for this celebration, including the choir. If there will be Baptism, only the parents and God-parents should be inside the church.  The Blessed Sacrament can again be paraded around the parish. The parishioners with lighted candles may bring at the door or windows of their homes the statue of the Blessed Mother. This becomes the “Salubong” of the parish this year.

The CBCP reminds people to continue to practice social distancing, good hygiene protocols and sanitation of spaces to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 . “Our social, economic and religious life are painfully hit by the “social distancing” that is a necessity this time of pandemic to stem the transmission of the virus,” it cited in the circular.

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