Vatican: Holy Week 2020 Dates Cannot Change, But Processions Can Occur Later

The Paschal Triduum is the three days leading up to and including Easter Sunday beginning at sundown Holy Thursday, and ending on sundown Easter Sunday.

Pope Francis blessing a child during Easter week, 2019.
Pope Francis blessing a child during Easter week, 2019. (photo: Daniel Ibañez/EWTN.)

Vatican City — The Vatican department for liturgy published guidelines Friday for bishops and priests on the celebration of Holy Week, the Triduum, and Easter liturgies during the coronavirus pandemic.

The document recommends that bishops postpone those liturgies which may be postponed. It also indicates how priests and bishops can offer those celebrations which cannot be moved, such as Easter, in places where public liturgies are suspended.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published the "general indications" after receiving inquiries from several bishops.

The decree was signed by the congregation’s prefect Cardinal Robert Sarah and Secretary Archbishop Arthur Roche and authorized "by mandate of the Supreme Pontiff, for the year 2020 only," meaning that the recommendations cannot be used in future years.

"Easter is the heart of the entire liturgical year and is not simply one feast among others," the document states, and that the Easter Triduum "cannot be transferred to another time."

The congregation’ document also says that the bishop has faculties to postpone the Chrism Mass of Holy Week.

The Paschal Triduum is the three days leading up to and including Easter Sunday. It begins at sundown Holy Thursday and ends on sundown Easter Sunday.

The decree orders that, in the places where there are restrictions from civil and Church authorities, the bishop, in agreement with the bishops' conference, may offer the liturgies of the Easter Triduum in the cathedral, and priests of the diocese may offer the liturgies in their parishes, without the physical presence of the faithful.   

"The faithful should be informed of the times of the celebration so that they can prayerfully unite themselves in their homes," it indicates, adding that live television or internet broadcasts are helpful in this situation.

Dioceses and bishops' conferences should provide resources to support families and individuals in personal prayer, it adds.

The document also provides several suggestions for the offering of the particular liturgies by priests and bishops. 

All priests may offer Holy Thursday's Mass of the Lord's Supper in a suitable place, without the public, it says, but the washing of the feet, which is already optional, should be omitted.

The procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose at the end of Mass should also be omitted and the Blessed Sacrament should remain in the tabernacle.

Good Friday's service of the Passion of the Lord may be celebrated in cathedrals and parish churches, the congregation said, and the universal prayers should include an intention for the sick, the dead, and those who feel lost and dismayed.

The guidelines indicate that the Easter Vigil may only be offered in cathedrals and parish churches, "where, and in the measure that there is a real possibility of doing so, established by the one responsible."

The preparing and lighting of the fire during the "Solemn Beginning of the Vigil or Lucenarium" is omitted, it says. The Paschal Candle is lit, the procession is omitted, and the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) follows. 

The Mass proceeds as usual, apart from the "Baptismal Liturgy," where "the renewal of baptismal promises alone is necessary," it explains.

The document states that "those who have absolutely no possibility of uniting themselves to the Paschal Vigil celebrated in a church should pray the Office of Readings for Easter Sunday."

Processions and other devotions of popular piety that usually take place during Holy Week and the Easter Triduum can be transferred by the diocesan bishop to other days during the year, such as September 14 and 15, it states.