During these Lenten days, and mindful of all who are affected by the COVID-19 Virus, we are called to be more fervent in prayer. Since we are not able to gather publicly for prayer at this time, we are encouraged to pray with our families in our homes, our “domestic” churches, and to draw on the many spiritual resources which are part of our Catholic tradition.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called for all Christians throughout the world to join in praying the Our Father on Wednesday 25 March 2020 at noon: The Solemnity of the Annunciation. It is most fitting that all the faithful in the Diocese of Hamilton respond to this initiative of the Holy Father, since The Solemnity of the Annunciation is the patronal feast of our Diocese. We pray for the health and safety of all in our Diocese, and in particular for the sick and those who care for them, and families facing financial difficulty during the pandemic.
On Friday, March 27, 2020, Pope Francis will preside over a moment of prayer at the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He invites everyone to participate in this prayer by means of communication. The celebration will consist of readings from the Scriptures, prayers of supplication, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. At the conclusion of the prayer Pope Francis will give the Urbi et orbi Blessing, with the possibility of gaining a plenary indulgence for all those who listen to it live through the various forms of communication. This service of prayer will take place at 6:00 p.m. Rome time (1:00 p.m. Daylight Saving Time in Ontario).
The Plenary Indulgence is granted to all who, with a spirit detached from any sin, unite themselves spiritually through the media to the celebration of Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion, or if at least they will recite the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father's intentions), as soon as possible.
The Prayer of the Holy Rosary is especially recommended during this time of crisis. Families and individuals are encouraged to pray the Rosary daily. Pope Francis offers us these encouraging and insightful words:
“The Rosary is the prayer of the humble and of the saints. In its mysteries, they contemplate, along with Mary, the life of Jesus, the merciful face of the Father. O, how much we all need to be truly comforted, to be wrapped in loving presence! We measure the truth of this experience through our relationship with others. At this moment, they are our closest relatives. Let us be close to one another, being the first to be charitable, understanding, patient and forgiving. Though you may be confined to your own homes, allow your hearts to expand so they may be available and welcoming to all.”
May we unite ourselves with all Canadians and Catholics throughout the world in offering this prayer, relying on the powerful intercession of Mary, our Mother, the Mother of Church.
Having reviewed the Decree: In Time of COVID-19, issued by mandate of Pope Francis and published by the Offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Prot. N. 153/20) on March 19, 2020, I, Douglas Crosby, OMI, hereby decree the following to be observed during Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum 2020 in the Diocese of Hamilton.
1. The Chrism Mass will be celebrated privately at the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King by the Bishop and members of the Episcopal Board on March 24, 2020. The oils will be delivered to the Deans to be distributed to Parishes at a later date.
2. The public celebration of Palm Sunday is not permitted. During the private celebration of Mass, Pastors may bless the palms and make them available at a later date when health authorities permit public gatherings.
3. The celebration of the Sacred Triduum is not to be celebrated in Parish churches. It is not possible to celebrate the various rites, which require a suitable number of ministers, given the limitations currently in force in the Province of Ontario.
4. The only exceptions to the prohibition against celebrating the Sacred Triduum are cloistered religious communities in the Diocese and convents with a resident chaplain, providing that social distancing is observed.
5. Priests are permitted to celebrate privately the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. The faculty to celebrate this Mass without the people is granted in an exceptional manner by the Holy See to all Priests. The washing of the feet, which is already optional, is omitted. Likewise, the procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose is omitted. The Blessed Sacrament is to be kept in the tabernacle. Priests who are unable to celebrate Mass should instead pray Vespers of the day.
6. The Celebration of the Passion on Good Friday is not to be celebrated. Instead, Priests are encouraged to read the Passion of the Lord and pray the Universal Prayer from the liturgy of the day, and include prayers for all whose lives are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
7. The Easter Vigil is not to be celebrated in any Parish in the Diocese. Priests are to pray the Office of Readings for Easter Sunday. The Sacraments of Christian Initiation and the reception of candidates for Full Communion are to be postponed until a later date.
8. On Easter Sunday, Priests are to celebrate Mass, without the presence of the faithful. During the Mass, they are to light the Paschal Candle and bless water using the formula on page 358 (no. 54) in the Roman Missal.
Given at Hamilton, Ontario, this 23rd day of March, 2020.
Sincerely in Christ and Mary Immaculate,
(Most Rev.) Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop of Hamilton
Very Rev. Msgr. Murray Kroetsch, VG, PH
Dear Reverend Monsignor,
Dear Reverend Father,
Thank you for your feedback regarding the recent experience of Sunday Mass in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Given the directives of Health Care professionals responding to COVID-19, the following will be implemented in the Diocese of Hamilton effective immediately:
Until further notice, I ask that each Pastor privately celebrate one Sunday Mass for the intentions of the people of his parish, as required by Canon Law (c. 534). The faithful in their homes are to be united in prayer with their Pastor.
As Diocesan Bishop, I hereby dispense the faithful from the obligation to participate in the Sunday Mass (c. 87), until we are again able to assemble for the Lord’s Day, in accord with the directives of health authorities.
Until further notice all public celebrations of weekday Masses are suspended.
Funeral Masses and receptions in Parishes are not permitted at this time. The Rite of Committal may be celebrated at the cemetery with immediate family members present. A Funeral Mass may be celebrated at a later date.
The Sacrament of Baptism may be celebrated privately with immediate family members present. Communal celebrations of Baptism are to be postponed until further notice.
All Marriage Preparation Courses have been cancelled until the end of May. Couples to be married before they can complete a course are permitted to celebrate their marriage with immediate family members present. They may wish to take part in a course at a later date.
Pastors are encouraged to cancel large Parish gatherings, including Missions and Retreats, during the coming weeks until further notice.
THE SICK, THE NEEDY AND THE HOMEBOUND
Pastors are encouraged to reach out to the sick, the elderly and the housebound to ensure they receive pastoral care.
The Chrism Mass will be celebrated privately without the participation of the priests, deacons and faithful. The Sacred Oils will be blessed and distributed to the Deans. Pastors are invited to pick up the oils for their Parishes after Monday, April 6, 2020.
Pastors may not vary from these directives without consulting the Chancellor or myself directly.
These are challenging times and we must work together for the care and safety of the community. Thank you for your attention to these directives.
Sincerely in Christ and Mary Immaculate,
(Most Rev) Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop of Hamilton.