The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced Friday that Holy Week and Easter services will be online and not open to the public due to the regulations currently in place in Maine as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Without public Masses and commemorations, there will be unprecedented live-streaming and broadcasting of liturgies from parishes across Maine, according to Dave Guthro, spokesman for the diocese.
Public Masses in Maine’s Catholic churches were suspended earlier this month after Gov. Janet Mills banned gatherings of more than 10 people to slow down the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Other denominations, including the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, have made similar announcements. Synagogues around the state have cancelled plans for community seders during Passover, which begins at sundown on April 8.
It was too soon to tell Friday if more churches would offer outdoor services on Easter Sunday or if the limits on the number of people who may gather in one place would limit how many sunrise services would be open to the public.
For Maine’s 300,000 Catholics, Bishop Robert Deeley’s announcement means no palm branches, symbolizing the palm branches used by the people to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, will be distributed in parishes on April 5, and recent converts usually welcomed into the faith at the Easter Vigil on April 11 will have to wait until a new date is set. The bishop also will dispense with the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday.
The announcement from the diocese came the same day after Pope Francis announced he would celebrate Masses during Holy Week without the public participating.
In addition to live streaming Masses, priests around Maine are offering drive-thru or walk-up confessions outside parishes and rectories.
The Diocese of Portland has created a “Coronavirus Response” page on its website that lists ways to participate in Maine Masses from home through livestreams, television, and radio.
Other information about Lent, how to make donations online, and other diocese offerings can be found online at portlanddiocese.org.
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