Holy Week in 2020: The Impact of Coronavirus on Easter Traditions
Holy Week 2020 is shaping up to be a more contemplative time than usual, due to one-third of the global population being on coronavirus lockdown. Masses and processions, like all events with a large group of people congregating together, are banned in an attempt to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
As coronavirus continues to advance around the world, religious leaders across several faith traditions are modifying practices and adjusting services. Churches and synagogues are offering services both online and televised. Muslim pilgrimages have been temporarily suspended.
Easter, which falls on April 12 this year, is an important celebration for Christians. It’s about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the triumph of hope and life over fear. How will Christians observe their holiest day of the year if they cannot rejoice together on Easter morning?
There’s No Postponing Easter
Semana Santa celebrations have been suspended throughout Spain and Latin America due to pandemic, effectively shutting down the tourism industry during this time when hundreds of thousands of tourists normally flock to Holy Week celebrations.
Although there is no precedent for Easter being postponed, the Catholic Church leadership has proposed moving the Vatican’s Easter processions to September 14 and 15 due to coronavirus. According to a letter from the Vatican to the dioceses: “The processions that enrich the days of Holy Week and Easter, in the judgment of each diocesan bishop, may be transferred to other convenient days.” The decision now rests with the leaders of each of the 2,240 Catholic dioceses worldwide.
The letter encourages bishops to postpone certain liturgies when possible and provides guidance as to how priests can offer those celebrations which cannot be moved (including Easter) in the many places where public liturgies are suspended due to the global pandemic. “Easter is the heart of the entire liturgical year and is not simply one feast among others” and it “cannot be transferred to another time,” the letter states.
The Vatican has denied allegations that Pope Francis had been tested for coronavirus, saying he only had a common cold.
Heartwarming Stories Out Of Italy
Italian priests have found other ways to continue their ministry. One inspiring example is Father Fabio Stevenazzi, who lives in northern Italy where the virus has struck the hardest. He exchanged his collar for hospital scrubs, to offer his help as a medical doctor, his profession prior to the priesthood.
Another inspiring, true tale from nearly 500 years ago is that of St. Charles Borromeo.
A great plague hit the city of Milan in 1576, when Borromeo was archbishop there. Historians estimate that the epidemic cut the city’s population in half. Borromeo was among the first to take the threat seriously. When panic struck the city he stayed behind, to nurse the sick, renovate hospitals and raise funds.
Borromeo delivered the sacraments to the homes of quarantined people and enacted prevention measures. He also had the priests go out to public places where people were able to follow Mass from their windows and balconies.
What To Do?
All faiths, at one time or another, have dealt with the challenges presented by war and persecution. Now, all faiths are experiencing this difficulty at the same time. Religion under quarantine is evolving along with every other area of life.
Contemplative practices like prayer and meditation are a good alternative at this time, since they can be done alone at home. Furthermore, meditation offers an abundance of physical and mental benefits to the dedicated practitioner, including boosting the immune system’s strength.
One would hope that divisiveness between the different religions and between the religious and nonreligious people will be reduced thanks to the present reminder of our interconnected humanity. Remember to be kind and compassionate to yourself and others in these unprecedented times.
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