The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued guidelines on Wednesday for the celebration of Holy Week this year in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In the note signed Feb. 17 by the congregation’s prefect Cardinal Robert Sarah and secretary Archbishop Arthur Roche, the congregation said that bishops were called upon to make prudent decisions regarding the liturgy in line with the Vatican decree on Holy Week liturgies issued in March 2020, which will remain valid for this year.

“We therefore invite you to re-read it in view of the decisions that bishops will have to make about the upcoming Easter celebrations in the particular situation of their country,” it said.

“Many countries still have strict lockdown conditions in force rendering it impossible for the faithful to be present in church, while in others a more normal pattern of worship is being resumed.”

The congregation noted that the use of social media has aided pastors in offering support to their communities during the pandemic, but it added that “problematic aspects were also observed.”

In light of this concern, the Vatican suggested that media coverage of the Holy Week liturgies offered by the local bishop are “facilitated and favored, encouraging the faithful who are unable to attend their own church to follow the diocesan celebrations as a sign of unity.”

The guidelines also recommended the preparation of prayer aids for family and personal prayer that make use of the Liturgy of the Hours.

You can read the decree for 2020 here. 

Among the highlights:

The Episcopal Conferences and individual dioceses will see to it that resources are provided to support family and personal prayer.

1 – Palm Sunday. The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem is to be celebrated within sacred buildings; in Cathedral churches the second form given in the Roman Missal is to be adopted; in parish churches and in other places the third form is to be used.

2 – The Chrism Mass . Evaluating the concrete situation in different countries, the Episcopal Conferences will be able to give indications about a possible transfer to another date.

3 – Holy Thursday . The washing of feet, which is already optional, is to be omitted. At the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the procession is also omitted and the Blessed Sacrament is to be kept in the tabernacle. On this day the faculty to celebrate Mass in a suitable place, without the presence of the people, is exceptionally granted to all priests.

4 – Good Friday . In the Universal Prayer, Bishops will arrange to have a special intention prepared for those who find themselves in distress, the sick, the dead, (cf. Missale Romanum ). The adoration of the Cross by kissing it shall be limited solely to the celebrant.

5 – The Easter Vigil : Is to be celebrated only in Cathedral and parish churches. For the “Baptismal Liturgy” only the “Renewal of Baptismal Promises” is maintained (cf. Missale Romanum ).

Seminaries, houses of clergy, monasteries and religious communities shall follow the indications of this decree.

Expressions of popular piety and processions which enrich the days of Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum can be transferred to other suitable days in the year, for example 14 and 15 September, according to the judgment of the Diocesan Bishop.