– Fr Leonard Dollentas

In the latest revision to Easter-time rituals given the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the Vatican has instructed the Catholic churches around the world to move indoors the traditional Palm Sunday service and procession. 

Hence, the English-speaking community of the Cathedral marked the start of Holy Week with the celebration of the online Palm Sunday Mass following the Vatican guidelines and instructions from the Diocese of Macau.

In all churches in Macao, the Palm Sunday rituals were carried out without the physical presence and participation of the faithful. They were, however, spiritually connected with the celebration via the live-streamed Mass.

The palms were then handed to the faithful after the scheduled distribution of communion. Despite the absence of familiar rites and rituals and the mild downpour, most faithful were nevertheless elated to find that palms were distributed. One churchgoer said, “I’m so happy we have the palms, and they are blessed today, at least we feel we have truly entered Holy Week.” 

Pope Francis himself acknowledged that the world is observing Holy Week this year “in a truly unusual way.” Thus, he reminded everyone to remain faithful to the spirit of Holy Week as the world battles a pandemic. “Let us try, if we can, to make the best use of this time. Let us be generous. Let us help those in need in our neighborhood. Let us look out for the loneliest people, perhaps by telephone or social networks,” he said.

Perhaps inspired by these words a local Macanese lady affirmed: “Yes we celebrate this year’s Holy Week without the traditional external symbols. This is still the Holy Week but we celebrate it differently, and personally, I think we are celebrating it more meaningfully and deeply.”

The Catholic Diocese of Macao encouraged people to follow Holy Week Masses and other liturgical services via live streaming. Mass schedules and other resources are available at www.catholic.org.mo/en/