Virus: Catholics to mark low-key Easter holiday

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021 00:00 |
Faithful in Nairobi during a past procession to mark Palm Sunday. The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops has directed that Palm Sunday be celebrated inside church buildings to contain the spread of coronavirus. Photo/PD/FILE

Noah Cheploen @cheploennoah

For the second time in as many years, Catholic faithful will have a low-key Palm Sunday after the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) issued new directives prohibiting the traditional public processions.

In a communication detailing how the Holy Week - an important event in the Catholic Calendar - will be celebrated, CCB chairman Philip Anyolo said Palm Sunday will be celebrated inside church buildings in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“We continue to face the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has brought about many changes, even to our normal way of celebrating the liturgy.

The norms and directives contained in the liturgical books, drawn up with normal times in view, are not entirely applicable in exceptional moments of crisis such as this,” Archbishop Anyolo says in the guidelines.

Catholics across the globe hold peaceful processions, waving twigs, around this time annually to commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem. It is always celebrated on the first day of the Holy Week and the Sunday before Easter.

It is the moment that triggered many key events in a Christian’s life including the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

“We realise that we have not come to 100 per cent attendance and we must still adhere to the guidelines on the opening of places of worship as well as Ministry of Health containment measures in force across the country,” said Anyolo.

“It is important that the commemoration of the lord’s entrance into Jerusalem be celebrated within the sacred buildings, in both the cathedral churches and parish churches… This means there will be no long processions,” he stated.

Palm Sunday will be celebrated in Kenya on March 28. Anyolo encouraged priests to continue using social media live transmissions and broadcasts to expand their reach considering that many people might not be able to attend church during this period of pandemic.

The bishops have also prohibited the washing of feet by priests for congregants on Holy Thursday, saying that they should instead celebrate mass “in a suitable place without the presence of people.”

“On Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated in the cathedral and in parish churches even without the faithful present,” the guidelines state.

The washing of feet, which is optional, is to be omitted when there are no faithful present and the traditional procession with the Blessed Sacrament at the end of the Mass also is omitted with the Eucharist placed directly in the tabernacle.

Easter vigil

The Way of the Cross which is a spiritual preparation of the celebration of the Passion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, may take place within the sacred buildings, he said. Regarding the Easter vigil, the bishops said it should also be celebrated inside church buildings.

“No official church activity should be scheduled within the curfew hours,” he said, adding: “It is not wise to unnecessarily expose ourselves and our parishioners to harassment and complaint from the civil authority.”

He instructed priests to ensure that no Mass is celebrated in the night, adding that all Masses should end by 8pm. “As a conference, we continue to pray for this pandemic to come to an end,” he said.

On Sunday, the Vatican issued guidelines in which it spelt out a number of events that would be omitted out in the liturgy during the Easter celebrations.

According to the Vatican’s head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, Archbishop Robert Sarah, processions and other expressions of popular piety that are traditional around the world during the Holy Week may be transferred to another date.

More on News