Vatican News staff writer
This year will be a very different Advent as restrictions remain in place in many countries due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Advent a season of hope
Yet, according to the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Eamon Martin – “perhaps this year more than ever – we need ideas and inspiration to help us delve deeper during our hours of isolation and restriction, to find that glimmer of light, that note of joy, that promise of consolation.”
Ireland will lift its highest level of curbs on Tuesday. Churches will be able to reopen for ceremonies but “restrictive measures” will remain in place.
Ahead of the beginning of Advent on Sunday, Archbishop Martin is encouraging people to "share hope" this season.
“The season of Advent offers us a new beginning and a promise of hope for better times,” he said.
The Primate of All Ireland added that “Since the outbreak of the pandemic the people of Ireland have endured testing times with courage, resilience, and compassion. Individuals and communities have made great sacrifices for the protection of life, health and the common good.”
The Archbishop underlined that “The seasons of Advent and Christmas occur in the depth of winter reminding us that Christ was born to bring hope to a darkened world.”
Archbishop Martin also invited the faithful from Sunday, until Christmas, to take “just five minutes each day for reflection to find moments of peace so as to rediscover the true meaning of Advent and thereby spiritually grow throughout this season.”
Televised Masses in Germany
Meanwhile, due to the pandemic, public television programming in Germany will be widely expanded this year during the Advent and Christmas period, both for the celebrations of the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church.
Expressing his thanks to broadcasters, Gebhard Fürst, Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart and Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference's Journalistic Commission said he was, “very grateful to the broadcasters for their great commitment despite the difficult conditions. In this way, millions of people can enjoy the atmosphere of Advent and Christmas in their living rooms. Despite the pandemic, services can be celebrated together, where community and cohesion can be experienced."
Italy, easing of restrictions
In Italy, the Italian Episcopal Conference said it is continuing to monitor the current health situation and is collaborating with the government.
The Italian government will ease anti-COVID restrictions in five regions from the first Sunday of Advent.
Lombardy, Piedmont and Calabria will be downgraded from red to orange zones, while Sicily and Liguria will drop from the orange to the yellow zone, which has the least restrictions.
Friday's decision follows a steady decline in hospitalisations from coronavirus in much of Italy over the past week.
While discussions continue regarding how to celebrate Christmas rites in safe conditions, the Bishops of Sicily are proposing an Advent in four stages with a different theme for each week.
In the current context of the pandemic, marked by mourning, and economic collapses, the bishops expressed the desire to make a journey together with families, parish and religious communities, together with the "cities that have experienced so many difficulties and are eager for authentic growth and true redemption from all poverty and slavery".