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Archdiocese issues guidance for Lenten, Holy Week observances


The image of the second Station of the Cross in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Pilot file photo/Gregory L. Tracy

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BRAINTREE -- Last year, the faithful of the archdiocese had to observe Holy Week at home due to the suspension of Masses and all other parish events following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, Masses and other events and activities will be permitted, albeit not with the same grandeur as usual.

"It should be remembered that all of these practices are to be seen in the context of our overall standards," the archdiocese said in a preface to its guidelines and required protocols for services of Lent and Holy Week, which were issued on Feb. 12.

These standards include wearing masks, observing social distancing, having no congregational singing, providing as much ventilation as possible, and cleaning surfaces after each gathering.

The archdiocese also said that parishes "should remain focused on streaming as many of their activities as possible."

Since Missalettes and pamphlets are not being used in churches, services such as the Stations of the Cross or the reading of the Passion narrative must be done in a format that does not require the distribution of written materials. The archdiocese recommended looking for possible forms of the Stations of the Cross on the USCCB website, which, they pointed out, can be accessed through phones in a church or while watching a livestream.

Traditionally, the Stations of the Cross is prayed by physically walking around a church or other space, stopping at each of the 14 stations to pray. The archdiocese said people should not follow the celebrant around the church but instead should remain in their pews.

During Holy Week services, one adult altar server may participate, wearing a mask and making "every attempt" to maintain social distance "as much as possible."

The archdiocese also said that, this year, processions "should be minimized, and very strict social distancing observed."

On Palm Sunday, palms may be distributed by a volunteer, but cannot be left on a table or in a basket for people to take. Palms should not be left behind in the pews, and an announcement should be made to remind worshipers of this.

On Holy Thursday, there will be no washing of the feet.

For the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, it should be made clear that parishioners cannot touch or kiss the cross. Instead, they may venerate the cross in ways that do not involve touching, such as genuflection or kneeling. If individuals approach the cross, social distancing should be observed. Alternatively, the entire congregation may venerate the cross by spending time in silent prayer rather than approaching it.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley has given permission for parishes to celebrate the Easter Vigil outdoors beginning at 4 p.m. If celebrated indoors, it should begin no later than 7:41 p.m.

If there is a fire outside with people around it, they should be strictly distanced. Congregational tapers are not recommended, since masks would prevent worshipers from blowing them out.

The archdiocese also addressed the possibility of catechumens being received into the Church and candidates being confirmed, saying that the celebrant "should do that safely, checking with his regional bishop or episcopal vicar if there are any questions."

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