COVID-19 Pandemic; How Different Christians Denominations Will Celebrate Easter

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Because of the pandemic, Pope Francis has issued a decree titled “In time of Covid-19 (II)” stipulating how each day of the Easter Triduum will be observed.
Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Internet photo)
The Easter holiday is one of the famous Christian traditions. It brings together families, relatives and friends to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This year’s Easter will fall on April 12, 2020. Unlike the previous Easter celebrations, there are limited options to observe the holiday because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has spread to several countries across the world.

Uganda has 44 confirmed COVID19 cases. Several countries including Uganda, have taken drastic measures including a partial lockdown to contain the spread of the pandemic. Uganda has for instanced banned public transport and gatherings including congregational prayers to contain the spread of the disease. 

As a result of the restrictions, no one would be expected to go merrymaking or congregate in prayer for the ‘risen king’. Everything will certainly look and feel different this year. In some Christian denominations like the Roman Catholic Church, Easter is a weeklong holiday. Different traditions and rituals are carried out each day right away from Palm Sunday, which is three days away.

Because of the pandemic, Pope Francis has issued a decree titled “In the time of Covid-19 (II)” stipulating how each day of the Easter Triduum will be observed. The decree that was sent to Uganda Episcopal Conference by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship updates the first decree issued on March 19th, 2020. 

“…in the countries which have been struck by the disease and where restrictions around the assembly and movement of people have been imposed, Bishops and priests may celebrate the rites of Holy Week without the presence of the people and in a suitable place, avoiding concelebration and omitting the sign of peace” reads the decree in parts.  

Although most of the Eucharist Mass has been aired or streamed from studios and several other places, the decree insists that the Commemoration of Palm Sunday and other days during Easter should to be celebrated within sacred buildings like Cathedrals and parish churches. 

In a localised guide, the Chairperson of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, who is also the ordinary of Kiyinda Mityana Diocese, Joseph Anthony Zziwa notes that the washing of feet on Holy Thursday has been omitted and on Good Friday, individual Bishops will arrange a special universal prayer intended to prepare faithfuls in distress and the sick whereas the adoration of the Cross by kissing is limited solely to the celebrant.  

“Expressions of popular piety and processions, which enrich the days of Holy Week, can be transferred to other suitable days in the year for example 14 and 15 September, according to the judgment of the Diocesan Bishop,” his communication reads. 

For the Anglican, the current arrangement of broadcasting and live streaming of the service will go on. However, Adam Sadiiki, the Church of Uganda Provincial Spokesperson notes that when the pandemic is contained, the church will hold a grand thanksgiving Sunday.

“It is on that day that we will celebrate in a special way for the would-be missed festival. However, this doesn’t mean that Easter will have shifted. As the Archbishop has always observed during the Easter holiday, fathers should lead prayers in their homes and engage their children in bible study,” said Sadiiki. 

Bishop Joshua Lwere, the General Overseer of the National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches of Uganda-NFBPC, says they are also bound to follow the 'new norm' of preaching via electronic media. He advises pastors not to defy the prayer guidelines and gather masses during Easter as has been done by some of them in the recent past.

"Let us hope that pastors will heed to the directives. We have already informed all those under our leadership but there are other big-headed ones who go on to misinform the public. God doesn't want defiance. We must keep on praying so that this period comes to pass and we go back to the normal situation," Bishop Lwere said.  

This is the not the first time in history that the faithfuls will have to forego certain church traditions as it happened in the 14 century during the Black Death epidemic that killed millions of people in Europe.