Rwanda: Catholics Modify Easter Celebrations to Comply With COVID-19 Lockdown

Christians on April 5 celebrated Palm Sunday, to officially kick-start the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday, when they mark the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

However, with the ongoing lockdown that is aimed to contain the raging coronavirus, it will not be business as usual, because, congregating in churches is suspended, to maintain the recommended social distance.

Some of the events celebrated during the Holy Week by the Catholic Church is the Chrism Mass, which is celebrated on Thursday of the Holy Week commonly known for the foot-washing ritual.

The day is common among the Christians as one where Jesus shared his last supper with his apostles before he was crucified.

According to the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda, the supreme organ of the Catholic Church, this particular service during which also includes washing of the feet will be postponed to a later date, after the virus has been contained.

"Taking into account the prevailing situation, the Diocesan Bishop will postpone the chrism mass to a later date. It would be good to place it at the beginning of July before the presbyteral ordinations begin," stated Philippe Rukamba, the chairperson of the conference.

The episcopate also clarified on how the Paschal Triduum must be held.

Paschal Triduum is a three-day period during which the Catholic Church celebrates the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

"Since the government and ecclesiastical members have prohibited gatherings, bishops and parish priests will celebrate the mystery of Pascal Triduum in the cathedral and parish churches without the presence of the faithful," he said.

However, priests will inform Christians of the schedule of celebrations so that they can join them spiritually in family prayer.

"Media outlets such as Rwanda Television, Radio Maria Rwanda and other radio and television stations will help us reach the faithful at home," he noted.

To celebrate the Holy Thursday, Rukamba said that in cathedral churches and parish churches, priests can concelebrate the Lord's Supper in the absence of the faithful.

"The foot washing rite will not take place. After the mass, there is no procession. The Blessed Sacrament will remain in the tabernacle. Priests who cannot celebrate the Lord's Supper will pray vespers," he said.

Regarding Good Friday, in the cathedral and parish churches, the bishop or the curate will celebrate the passion of Christ, otherwise known as the way of the cross but there will be no Christians in the church.

"In the universal prayer, the Bishop will pray specifically for the sick, the dead and the distressed," he added.

The Easter Vigil which is observed on the eve of Easter Sunday will be celebrated in the cathedrals and parish churches.

"During the Easter Vigil, we will not light the fire; only the paschal candle will be lit. There will be no procession and we will proceed directly to the song announcing the paschal light, followed by the liturgy of the word.

As for the Baptismal liturgy, only the baptismal promises will be renewed. Then we will celebrate the Eucharistic liturgy," said Bishop Rukamba.

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