By Devin Watkins
Even the most sacred sites in Christianity have not been spared the ravages of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
As part of measures to halt its spread, Holy Week and Easter celebrations in the places of Jesus’ life and death have to be held without a congregation.
In response, the Apostolic Administrator of Jerusalem has laid out pastoral guidelines for the celebration of Holy Week.
New challenge, new response
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa called it “a unique situation that we have never seen before and which requires us to find new ways to celebrate.”
Liturgical celebrations at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have been reduced to a minimum.
But Triduum and Easter celebrations in Christianity’s most sacred site will be live-streamed in Arabic by the Christian Media Center.
In the guidelines, Archbishop Pizzaballa invited parish priests in Jerusalem to provide the faithful with blessed olive branches and holy water.
Families, he said, are urged to make time to pray together at home and to participate in the liturgies with leaflets prepared by the diocese that contain the Mass readings.
Celebrate together, apart
Archbishop Pizzaballa urged the parishes in the Holy Land to direct the faithful to the Triduum liturgies broadcast online from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, rather than live-streaming their own celebrations.
Individual confessions have been strongly discouraged in order to stem contagion. But Archbishop Pizzaballa reminds Catholics of the possibility to receive absolution by making a sincere act of contrition, along with the intention to confess their sins to a priest as soon as possible.
Week of digital prayer
In a bid to bring the Holy Land to the faithful around the world, the Custody of the Holy Land has launched a virtual pilgrimage.
Running through Holy Week, the “digital prayer” initiative will allow francophone faithful to pray with Christians in the Holy Land.
Interested parties can sign up here, and will be sent the Gospel readings of the day, a meditation, a picture, and a video to help stimulate prayer.
As Brother Roger Marchal, OFM, puts it: “Our main mission at the Custody is to bring the Holy Land to the faithful and to help them love and discover our Churches.”