HARRISBURG, Pa. — Bishop Ronald W. Gainer announced Thursday that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg will not celebrate any public Masses during Palm Sunday, Holy Week, or Easter due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The decision was made in accordance with the decree from Pope Francis, recommendations from state and local government, and "out of continued concern for the health and well-being of the faithful" during the global pandemic, Gainer's announcement said.
“Our Diocese, our nation and our world are experiencing the unthinkable with the coronavirus," said Gainer. "With this global pandemic in mind, the Holy See, Pope Francis, has decreed that all Holy Week and Easter Masses will be celebrated, but that countries impacted by coronavirus and in cases where restrictions regarding the assembly and movement of people are in place, the bishop and priests may celebrate without the presence of the faithful.
"With the restrictions and recommendations from our state government, and in consideration of the highly contagious nature of this virus, it would be irresponsible of me to open our parishes while still in the midst of this pandemic.
“Please know the impact of this announcement is not lost on me. I too am deeply hurting by not being able to gather with the faithful for the celebration of Mass.
“Although we cannot come together for public Masses during this holiest time of year, our priests will celebrate Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter Masses. Many of our Parishes are live streaming these Masses and I encourage the faithful to participate in Mass through these online means.”
Parishes throughout the Diocese have been asked to bless the palms used on Palm Sunday and to make them available for parishioners at a later date, Gainer said.
The Chrism Mass, in which the Holy Oils used in celebrating the sacraments are blessed and which traditionally is held during Holy Week, and includes a gathering of all priests from the Diocese in order to renew their priestly promises, has also been postponed, according to Gainer.
Parishes within the Diocese have been asked to prepare worship aids and distribute them to parishioners, allowing the faithful to more actively participate in the Holy Week and Easter Masses remotely, Gainer said.
Additional information on live stream options and resources for parishioners are available on the Health Alerts page of the Diocesan website.