Sr. Jecinter Antoinette Okoth, FSSA
As the Catholic Church approaches Holy Week, Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has issued pastoral guidelines on liturgical celebration following the protracted Covid-19 pandemic that is still a challenge in the country.
In their March 16 statement, the Bishops have highlighted that the decree issued in 2020 by the Dicastery of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, as mandated by the Holy Father concerning Holy Week guidelines is still applicable this year in view of the present situation in the country.
“We realize that we have not come to a hundred percent (public worship) attendance, and we must still adhere to the guidelines on opening of places of worship as well as the Ministry of health containment measures in force across the country,” reads an excerpt of the statement signed by the KCCB Chairman Archbishop Philip Arnold Anyolo.
Since the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic have led to changes in various sectors including liturgical celebration, “The norms and directives contained in the liturgical books, drawn up with normal times in view, are not entirely applicable in exceptional moments of a crisis such as this.”
The Prelates underscore, “As the moderators of the liturgical life of their Church, are called upon to make prudent decisions in order that the liturgy can be celebrated fruitfully for the people of God and for the good of the souls entrusted to their care, while respecting the safeguarding of health and what has been prescribed by those in authority.”
The Prelates further observed that even though social media has aided pastors to reach those who cannot attend public worship, problematic aspects were also observed. Therefore, they still encourage the use of media to cover the Holy Week celebrations presided over by the Bishops to “encourage the faithful who are unable to attend their Church to follow the diocesan celebrations as a sign of unity.”
Explaining how each day during the Holy Week should be celebrated, the bishops noted that on Palm Sunday when the Church commemorates the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem, “The celebration be within the sacred buildings… thus there will be no long processions.”
For the Chrism Mass the statement reads in part, “It can be celebrated with representatives of the Clergy where the space does not allow big numbers to participate; it may also be celebrated in an open area, with a minimal attendance of faithful.”
On Holy Thursday when Christians recall the washing of the feet and last supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, the Bishops say that the procession normally done at the end of the Mass “will be omitted and the Blessed Sacrament to be kept in the Tabernacle.”
Moreover, “the washing of the feet is already optional (and) is to be omitted,” and “the faculty to celebrate Mass in a suitable place, without the presence of the people, can exceptionally be granted to all priests.”
“The Way of the Cross done on Good Friday which is a spiritual preparation for the celebration of the Passion of our Lord may take place within the sacred buildings,” the bishops explained adding, “The adoration of the Cross by kissing, shall be limited solely to the celebrant, and there will be no public Way of the Cross processions, that involve many faithful.”
Talking about Easter Virgil, the celebration is to be conducted in the Cathedral and parish churches. For the Baptismal Liturgy the Bishops “encourage only the “Renewal of Baptismal Promises.”
The Church leaders warned that “No official Church activity should be scheduled within the curfew hours, no vigil Mases should be celebrated in the night; and if the Local Ordinary allows, the Masses should end by 8.00 p.m.” arguing “It is not wise to unnecessarily expose ourselves and our parishioners to harassment and complaint from civil authority.”
The KCCB urges the people of God to continue praying for the pandemic to come to an end and appreciated the “response in a pastoral manner to a rapidly changing situation over the past year.”