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Supplement to the Recommendations for Holy Week and Paschal Triduum Celebrations in Time of Covid-19

Supplement to the Recommendations for Holy Week and Paschal Triduum Celebrations in Time of Covid-19

Circular No. 20-19


Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, and Reverend Administrators:

RE: Supplement to the Recommendations for Holy Week and Paschal Triduum Celebrations in Time of Covid-19

This present Circular is a supplement to our previous recommendations, Circulars No. 20-14 and No. 20-15. At the same time, the Congregation For Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) has also released two (2) Decrees/Instructions relevant to our Holy Week and Paschal Triduum Liturgical Celebrations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will refer to these two documents as Vatican Guidelines.

All these instructions on the liturgical celebrations of the Church during this time of world crisis should help us find the balance between the worthy celebration of the liturgy of the Rites of Holy Week and the call of our health and civil authorities to help stem the rapid transmission of the Corona Virus Disease.

Relative to the above, especially with the recent instructions from the Holy See, we have this present Circular containing additional observations and suggestions of Fr. Genaro Diwa, Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Liturgy, for the celebrations of Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum:

On the Liturgical Celebrations of Holy Week

     1. Avoid Concelebrations: The recent Vatican Guidelines specifically instruct us to avoid concelebrations since our celebrations must also show our sincere efforts at avoiding the gathering of people.

     2. Omitting the Sign of Peace: The recent Vatican Guidelines indicate “omitting the sign of peace”. But we can still do the giving of the sign of peace since in our recent practice it is done now through the nodding or bowing of the head. (cf. CBCP Circular No. 20-05, dated January 29, 2020: Discourage our faithful from holding hands during the singing/praying of the “Our Father” and shaking of hands during the Sign of Peace).

     3. The Vatican Guidelines emphasize that all our Holy Week and Paschal Triduum Celebrations be made available to our faithful:

          a. That the Holy Week and Paschal Triduum Celebrations should be brought to our faithful through radio, television, and social media;

          b. That the schedules of these broadcasts should be known to our faithful so they can follow, in spirit, these celebrations;

          c. That these scheduled celebrations made available to the faithful should be LIVE coverages.

     4. On our Previous Suggestion (cf. CBCP Circular 20-15): For the presider of the celebrations to go around the parish after every celebration whether to bless the Palms, bring the Blessed Sacrament and the Cross:

This should be considered with great caution, having in mind not to give an opportunity for our faithful to congregate outside their homes. In such a scenario, it will be very difficult to implement the “social distancing” measure. Moreover, such a scenario will be in contradiction to the lock down and “stay at home” measures now enforced in many places.

On this matter, close coordination with local government and health authorities should be done.

     5. Palm Sunday: Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

          a. “The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem is to be celebrated within the church, the sacred building.” (Vatican Guidelines, March 25, 2020).

          b. The same Vatican Guidelines recommend the use of the “Second Form: Solemn Entrance” for the Cathedral churches and the “Third Form: Simple Entrance” for the Parish churches. However, we recommend upon closer study that we use the “Second Form: Solemn Entrance” but in a modified way. Since the blessing of the palm branches is in this form, it may be used at the Entrance Rite when the presider is already in the sanctuary.

          c. When the faithful follow this celebration through radio, television, and social media, the blessing of their palms or any leaf branches is imparted by the Scriptural Reading and Prayer of Blessing during the celebration. In their homes there is no need for holy water for the blessing of their palm branches.

     6. The Chrism Mass

          a. Both Vatican Guidelines allow us this: After thorough assessment of the situation of the diocese in the face of the threat of Covid-19 and in compliance with the call of our government and health authorities to avoid mass gatherings, each bishop may transfer the Chrism Mass to another date when this crisis has ended.

          b. Holy Oils: In this situation, if the diocese will need new Chrism, the Bishop may consecrate some amount of Chrism. The Oil of the Sick may be blessed by each priest during the celebration of the Anointing of the Sick, as the need arises. This is provided for in the Rite of Anointing of the Sick.

     7. Holy Thursday: The Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

          a. Please refer to our previous Circular (cf. CBCP Circular No. 20 – 15).

          b. A Particular Note: The recent Vatican Guidelines say, “The faculty to celebrate Mass on this day in a suitable place, without the people, is granted in an exceptional manner to all priests.”

This means that each priest may celebrate the Mass alone on this occasion. This is due to the intrinsic connection between the priesthood and the Eucharist, the anniversaries of which are highlighted in the liturgical celebration of this evening.

     8. Good Friday: Friday of the Passion of the Lord

          a. Please refer to our previous Circular (cf. CBCP Circular No. 20 – 15).

          b. The liturgy is the usual Liturgy of the Friday of the Passion of the Lord found in the Roman Missal.

          c. The recent Vatican Guidelines indicate that the Presider alone will do the kissing in the Veneration of the Cross.

          d. In the Solemn Universal Prayers in this liturgy of Good Friday, the recent Vatican Guidelines say, “The bishop will see to it that there is a special intention for the sick, the dead, for those who feel lost or dismayed (cf. Roman Missal pag. 307, no. 13).

In the concrete, this special intention would include those who are presently sick of Covid-19, those who have died because of this disease, as well as our doctors, nurses and other medical staff, health care workers, the frontliners in the food services and relief operations, those keeping peace and order, civil servants, and the poorest among our families who are greatly affected by this crisis.

     9. Easter Vigil:

          a. Please refer to our previous Circular (cf. CBCP Circular No. 20-15).

          b. The recent Vatican Guidelines say that the Easter Vigil is to be celebrated only in Cathedral and parish churches.

          c. This can be celebrated not earlier than 5:00 p.m.

          d. The “Lucernarium” can be celebrated but within the building of the Church.

          e. In the “Baptismal Liturgy”, we only omit the “Ritual of Baptism” and we maintain the “Blessing of Water” (cf. The prayer of blessing used if no one is present to be baptized) and the “Renewal of Baptismal Promises”.

Related Considerations:

     1. Holy Week and Paschal Triduum Family/Home Celebrations: These we offer to our faithful so that they can use them even if they cannot be physically present in all our liturgical celebrations. It is to be noted that these Family/ Home Celebrations are different and are to be used apart from the liturgies we offer to our faithful to watch and listen to.

These Family/Home Celebrations can be used after the family has followed the liturgical celebrations of the Church through radio, television, and social media. The father or any of the elders of the household can lead the celebration.

We will send you the PDF copy of these celebrations so you can translate these to your native language and eventually disseminate them to your parishes.

     2. The Need for Confession when No Priest is Available: The opportunity of celebrating the Sacrament of Confession is extremely difficult to have during this crisis situation.

Thus, we remind our clergy that our faithful should be instructed on the issue of the need for Confession in a situation when no priest is available. On this problematic pastoral situation, Pope Francis has made this clarification, echoing the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Nos. 1451 and 1452):

“I know that many of you go to confession before Easter… Many will say to me: ‘But Father…I can’t leave the house and I want to make my peace with the Lord. I want Him to embrace me… How can I do that unless I find a priest?’. Do what the catechism says. It’s very clear. If you don’t find a priest to go to confession, speak to God. He’s your Father. Tell Him the truth: ‘Lord. I did this and this and this. Pardon me.’ Ask His forgiveness with all your heart with an act of contrition, and promise Him, ‘afterward I will go to confession.’ You will return to God’s grace immediately. You yourself can draw near, as the catechism teaches us, to God’s forgiveness, without having a priest at hand.” (Homily, Casa Santa Marta Chapel, Pope Francis, March 20, 2020).

     3. Guidelines for Those Who Minister to those Affected by the COVID-19: We are also sending you a copy of the Guidelines for Those Who Minister to those Affected by the COVID-19.

     4. Modified Holy Week and Paschal Triduum Celebrations: We will also send you, the soonest, copies of the modified Holy Week and Paschal Triduum Celebrations, to guide our clergy and our faithful.


Sincerely yours in Christ,

Archbishop of Davao
CBCP President

31 March 2020

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