Michael Swan

Cardinal Collins issues instructions for Holy Week and Easter

By 
  • March 26, 2020

In a letter to priests of the Archdiocese of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins said it is “essential” to proceed with Holy Week and Easter ceremonies even though every church in Canada’s largest diocese will be closed throughout the holiest days on the Church calendar. 

The letter provided detailed instructions on how services are to be celebrated on Palm Sunday, the Mass of Chrism, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. It covers everything from instructions to distribute palms to parishioners and holy oils to churches at a later date, live-streaming Masses, omitting the washing of feet on Holy Thursday, and special prayers on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

“We are approaching the most sacred time of the year,” said the cardinal’s letter dated March 25. “It is essential that, in every parish in the diocese, the ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter proceed even though adapted to the restrictions required at this time.

“Due to the current pandemic, the liturgical celebration of the paschal mysteries of Holy Week, the Triduum and Easter will be celebrated without the physical participation of the faithful.”

The Archdiocese of Toronto stretches from the shores of Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay and has 225 parishes and more than two million Catholics.

The cardinal’s instructions followed a decree from Pope Francis that said, while many church activities can be suspended during the pandemic, the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter cannot be cancelled or postponed.

"Easter is at the heart of the entire liturgical year and is not simply one feast among others,” said the decree. 

Where public Masses have been canceled, the decree said, bishops and priests must ensure that Holy Week liturgies are celebrated in the cathedral and in parish churches. People should be encouraged to pray at home at the same time.
"Live — not recorded — televisual or Internet broadcasts are helpful," the decree said.
Below are the detailed instructions on how the liturgies are to be celebrated in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Michael, and in parish churches in the Archdiocese of Toronto. 

Palm Sunday - Sunday, April 5, 2020: 

At the Cathedral Basilica of St. Michael: 

  • The liturgy of Palm Sunday will begin at 10:00 am, and will be livestreamed so that the faithful may prayerfully unite themselves in their homes to the celebration of the liturgy. 
  • The liturgy will commence with the blessing of palms, the proclamation of the Gospel and the Solemn Entrance, but without the procession of palms. Blessed palms will be distributed at a later date. 
  • Present at the liturgy will be the priests of the Cathedral parish.
  • The liturgy will proceed in the usual way. 

At parish churches: 

  • At a suitable time, the pastor accompanied (as applicable) by his associate pastor(s), or resident priest(s), will begin the liturgy of Palm Sunday with the blessing of palms, the proclamation of the Gospel and Solemn Entrance, but without the procession of palms. The liturgy will then proceed in the usual way. Blessed palms will be distributed at a later date. 

The Mass of Chrism - Tuesday, April 7, 2020: 

At the Cathedral Basilica of St. Michael: 

  • -  The Mass of Chrism will begin at 10:00 am, and will be livestreamed so that the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the archdiocese will have an opportunity to prayerfully unite themselves in their homes to the celebration of the liturgy. 
  • -  Present at the liturgy will be the priests of the Cathedral parish. 
  • -  The liturgy will include the blessing of Holy Oils, which will be distributed at a later
    date. 

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper - Thursday, April 9, 2020: 

At the Cathedral Basilica of St. Michael: 

  • The Mass of the Lord’s Supper will begin at 7:00 pm, and will be livestreamed so that the faithful may prayerfully unite themselves in their homes to the celebration of the liturgy. 
  • Present at the liturgy will be the priests of the Cathedral parish. 
  • The washing of feet will be omitted. 
  • At the end of the Holy Mass, the Blessed Sacrament will be reposed in the tabernacle.
  • There will not be a procession to a special place of reposition.

At Parish Churches: 

  • At a suitable time in the evening, the pastor accompanied (as applicable) by his associate pastor(s), or resident priest(s) will begin the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. 
  • The washing of feet will be omitted. 
  • At the end of the Holy Mass, the Blessed Sacrament will be reposed in the tabernacle.
  • There will not be a procession to a special place of reposition. 
  • Priests who will be unable to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper are to pray the Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Day

Good Friday - April 10, 2020: 

At the Cathedral Basilica of St. Michael: 

  • The Good Friday Passion of the Lord will begin at 3:00 pm, and will be livestreamed so that the faithful may prayerfully unite themselves in their homes to the celebration of the liturgy. 
  • Present at the service will be the priests of the Cathedral parish. 
  • Following the special decree of March 19 from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, special prayers will be said “for the sick, the dead, for those who feel lost or dismayed.” 

At Parish Churches: 

  • At the usual time of 3:00 pm, the pastor accompanied (as applicable) by his associate pastor(s), or resident priest(s) will begin the liturgy for Good Friday. 
  • Special prayers are to be said “for the sick, the dead, for those who feel lost or dismayed.” 

The Easter Vigil - Saturday, April 11, 2020:

At the Cathedral Basilica of St. Michael: 

  • The Easter Vigil will begin at 7:00 pm, and will be livestreamed so that the faithful may prayerfully unite themselves in their homes to the celebration of the liturgy. 
  • Present at the liturgy of the Vigil will be the priests of the Cathedral parish. 
  • At the Solemn Beginning of the Vigil, the lighting of the fire is omitted. The Paschal Candle is to be lit in the sanctuary. The procession with the Paschal Candle is omitted. The Exsultet then follows immediately, and the Vigil proceeds in the usual way. 
  • The renewal of baptismal promises is to replace the baptismal liturgy. 
  • The rite of baptism and the reception of baptized Christians is to be deferred to a later time. 

At Parish Churches: 

  • At a suitable time in the evening, the pastor accompanied (as applicable) by his associate pastor(s), or resident priest(s) will begin the liturgy of the Easter Vigil. 
  • At the Solemn Beginning of the Vigil, the lighting of the fire is omitted. The Paschal Candle is to be lit in the sanctuary. The procession with the Paschal Candle is omitted. The Exsultet then follows immediately, and the Vigil proceeds in the usual way. 
  • The renewal of baptismal promises is to replace the baptismal liturgy.
    The rite of baptism and the reception of baptized Christians is to be deferred to a later time. 

Easter Sunday - April 12, 2020: 

At the Cathedral Basilica of St. Michael: 

  • The Mass for Easter Sunday will begin at 10:00 am, and will be livestreamed so that the faithful may prayerfully unite themselves in their homes to the celebration of the liturgy. 
  • Present at the Mass will be the priests of the Cathedral parish. 
  • Special prayers will be said for those affected by the current pandemic, for our religious and government leaders, and for the dead. 

At Parish Churches: 

  • At a suitable time, the pastor accompanied (as applicable) by his associate pastor(s), or resident priest(s), will celebrate the Mass of Easter Sunday. 
  • Special prayers are to be said for those affected by the current pandemic, for our religious and government leaders, and for the dead. 

Preparation for the sacred time of Holy Week, the Triduum and Easter 

Sacrament of Reconciliation: The only ordinary way of attaining forgiveness for sins is participating in individual and integral confession and absolution. Nevertheless, if a person is unable to make an appointment with a priest for the Sacrament during the current pandemic, it will suffice for the moment to pray the Act of Contrition as best as one can intending it truthfully, and to commit to participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as soon as possible when conditions allow. There will be no permission granted for General Absolution. 

Resources - Devotions and scripture readings – to assist the faithful during these sacred days, we will make available, a variety of resources at: www.archtoronto.org/covid19 - these will include the following: 

  • the Holy Rosary
  • the Stations of the Cross 
  • the Act of Contrition 
  • the scripture readings for the various liturgies 
  • the Office of Readings for the various days in Holy Week, the Triduum and on Easter Sunday 
  • (for parishes) Instruction from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops re: Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults in extraordinary circumstances

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