BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano announced today that there will be no public Liturgical Celebrations for Holy Week, the Triduum and Easter.
The Bishop said he made the decision based on the restrictions and recommendations issued by public authorities and the need to safeguard the lives of those who are most vulnerable.
“Unfortunately, given the continuing spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the restrictions placed upon all of us by State and local authorities, I am sorry to inform you that there will be no liturgical celebrations in the presence of the lay faithful for Holy Week, the Triduum and Easter this year,”
In his memo issued to pastors and priests today, the bishop recommended live-streamed Masses and liturgies during Holy Week, and he issued a set of guidelines for the private celebration of Mass by priests.
Earlier this month the bishop temporarily suspended all weekday and Sunday public Masses celebrated in the presence of the lay faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport through Friday, April 3. That date has now been extended to April 30.
“At that time, it was my deep hope that the suspension could be lifted before Palm Sunday,’ the bishop said, noting that the health crisis continue to persist.
The bishop is encouraging all pastors to celebrate the Easter Triduum liturgies this year, even though the lay faithful will not be able to physically gather for the Masses.
“To the extent possible, all liturgies should be live-streamed so that the lay faithful can participate in real time,” he said.
In order to observe social distancing, no more than five priests, deacons and musicians will be present at the taping of each Mass.
Noting that parishes will be unable to distribute palms on Palm Sunday, the bishop instructed pastors that palms should be blessed at the private Mass they celebrate.
“Blessed palms can be distributed at a later date that will be designated; tentatively Pentecost Sunday, so all parishes can distribute blessed palms on the same day,” he said.
The celebration of the Chrism Mass will take place as scheduled on Holy Thursday, April 9, at 10 am at Saint Augustine Cathedral. It will be celebrated only in the presence of the Vicar General, the priests who live at the Cathedral Parish, as well as a Master of Ceremonies and a musician
The Chrism Mass will also be live-streamed so that the clergy, consecrated men and women and lay faithful throughout the diocese can participate electronically.
The Blessing of Oils will take place during the C hrism Mass, and the sacred oils will be maintained for safe-keeping and made available to parishes at a later date when they can be safely distributed, the bishop said.
In response to the Coronavirus crisis, priests will add the following petition for the end of the pandemic to the Special Intentions: “Let us pray, dearly beloved, for a swift end to the coronavirus pandemic that afflicts our world, that our God and Father will heal the sick, strengthen those who care for them, and help us all to persevere in faith…
The priest will then pray, “Almighty and merciful God, source of all life, health and healing, look with compassion on our world, brought low by disease; protect us in the midst of the grave challenges that assail us and in your fatherly providence grant recovery to the stricken, strength to those who care for them, and success to those working to eradicate this scourge. Through Christ our Lord.”
All Easter Vigil Masses will also be celebrated in private this year, and the diocese and most parishes will live-stream them to the faithful. Parishioners should visit their parish websites for more information in the coming days.
Regarding the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), which is completed at the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the Easter sacraments for the Elect and Candidates will be postponed throughout the Diocese to a later date, most likely during a celebration of the extended version of the Vigil of Pentecost.
Baptized candidates who were to be Confirmed, receive First Holy Communion and make a Profession of Faith at the Easter Vigil will be received into the Church at any time after public Masses resume in the Diocese and candidates are ready, he said.
The bishop thanked pastors and priests for all that they are doing to reach out to people and to bring creative solutions forward at a time when people cannot gather publicly for Mass.
“Please know how deeply grateful I am to all of you for your continued cooperation and leadership during this extraordinary time in the life of the Church and the world, and be assured of my daily prayers,” the bishop said.
(In the interest of public health and safety, all Masses will be celebrated in private with only priests and deacons in attendance. Please visit the diocesan website for live-streaming and later viewing: www.bridgeportdiocese.org)