Amid the continuing threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Holy See has adopted significant changes to the Holy Week liturgical schedule of Pope Francis.

It started on Palm Sunday, April 5, when the pope celebrated the Mass of Palm Sunday in an empty St. Peter’s Basilica.  Traditionally, the Palm Sunday Mass is celebrated in St. Peter’s Square in front of a massive crowd.

Due to the pandemic, the pope’s liturgical services will still be celebrated indoors with just a handful of aides attending his Masses.

For Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday Mass, the Vatican Office for the Papal Liturgical Celebrations released the following schedule of the Pope’s liturgical services

Pope Francis’ celebrations will be broadcast live via radio, television and the internet. The ‘miraculous’ Crucifix of St. Marcellus and the Salus populi Romani icon will be present during all the liturgies. Both were also present during the Pope’s prayer to end the pandemic in St. Peter’s Square on 27 March, and Palm Sunday Mass on 5 April.


Holy Thursday

On Holy Thursday, the Pope will not preside at the Chrism Mass, which will be celebrated at a later date. The Mass in Coena Domini (of the Lord’s Supper), which commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, will be held at 6pm (Rome time) at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. It will not include the traditional washing of the feet which can, in any case, be omitted. There will be no procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose either.


Good Friday

On Good Friday, the Liturgy of the Passion with the Adoration of the Cross, will take place at 6pm in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Crucifix of St. Marcellus will be covered. The Preacher of the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, will deliver a meditation, after which the Crucifix will be revealed. Adoration will follow, without the traditional kissing of the Cross.


The Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis, will take place at 9pm on Good Friday evening in St. Peter’s Square. The Stations will include stops around Bernini’s colonnade and the obelisk at the centre of the Square, concluding at the steps leading up to St. Peter’s Basilica. The Cross will be carried by two groups: prisoners from Padua, who wrote some of the meditations, and doctors and nurses from the Vatican Healthcare Department. Doctors and nurses continue to be on the front line in the service of those affected by the pandemic.

Holy Saturday

The Holy Saturday Vigil will begin at 9pm in St. Peter’s Basilica. No baptisms will be performed during the liturgy. The fire will be lit behind the Altar of the Confession. Instead of lighting candles, the lights of the Basilica will come on and accompany the three “Lumen Christi” invocations during the procession to the Altar of the Chair. The bells of the Basilica will ring at the moment of the “Gloria”, announcing the Resurrection.


Easter Sunday

The Pope will celebrate Easter Sunday Mass at 11am at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Gospel will be proclaimed in Greek and Latin. At the end of Mass, Pope Francis will go to the Sacristy to remove his vestments, before returning to the Altar of the Confession. From there, he will deliver his Urbi et orbi message and give his Easter blessing. The entire celebration will take place inside the Basilica.  (Rommel F. Lopez)