Holy Week will be radically different this year in at least one American diocese. 

According to a statement released late yesterday, Bishop Anthony Taylor has taken what may be the most extreme steps in the United States to combat the coronavirus:  cancelling all public Masses and “non-essential gatherings” at parishes through mid-April, including previously scheduled confirmations; eliminating face-to-face confessions; and taking the drastic step of only allowing RCIA members to attend the Triduum.

As reported in local media, the bishop is dispensing the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, beginning March 21-22.

He adds:

Churches will be kept open during daylight hours for private prayer and Eucharistic Adoration.

Except for very small parishes, only those entering the church through RCIA may be present physically for the Triduum. All others may participate via TV or electronic media.

On Palm Sunday, priests will hold a short prayer service, after which people may pick up blessed palms, which will be available outside the church.

He says he will decide by April 15 whether to extend cancellations through May.

He writes: “Certain measures must be put in place to ‘flatten the curve’ such that the spike in COVID-19 cases is not too high, too fast, such that our healthcare providers are overwhelmed.”

“Although these measures may seem drastic,” he says, “our faith also binds us together in ways that run deeper than our public gatherings.”

You can read the entire letter below. You can also find it online at the diocesan website.