Pope’s Easter schedule changes for the second year due to covid-19

The Vatican changes the schedule of 2021 Holy Week ceremonies due to Italy’s covid-19 restrictions.

The Holy Week and Easter ceremonies presided over by Pope Francis have been changed in line with covid-19 restrictions, for the second year in a row, the Vatican has announced.

Once again, the services will not be open to the general public due to coronavirus social distancing norms. However, a limited number of faithful will be granted access to the Masses.

This year’s calendar for Holy Week and Easter will be celebrated primarily in St Peter’s Basilica with a tiny congregation allowed to attend, by covid restrictions.

The Easter Vigil on Saturday 3 April has been brought forward by an hour and a half – to 19.30 – due to Italy’s nightly curfew of 22.00.

Last year’s vigil was held at the usual time of 21.00. However, this was because the faithful were not allowed to attend during Italy’s first covid-19 lockdown.

Another significant change this year is that the pope will not preside over the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on 1 April, Holy Thursday.

According to Vatican News, the Mass will instead be celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.

Before the covid-19 pandemic, Pope Francis had become a tradition to celebrate the Holy Thursday evening Mass and foot-washing ritual in prisons or refugee centers.

Another novelty in 2021 will be the Way of the Cross’s meditations prepared and illustrated by a Scouts group, a Roman parish, and other young people.

In pre-covid days the pope led the traditional Via Crucis ceremony at the Colosseum on the night of Good Friday. The last time this occurred was in 2019.

Here is the 2021 schedule of papal liturgical ceremonies for Holy Week and Easter released by the Vatican:

28 March. Palm Sunday, 10.30.
1 April. Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass 10.00. Mass of the Lord’s Supper 18.00.
2 April. Good Friday, Liturgy of the Lord’s passion, 18.00. Way of the Cross. In front of St Peter’s Basilica, 21.00.
3 April. Easter Vigil Mass, 19.30.
4 April. Easter morning Mass, 10.00, followed by Pope Francis’ blessing Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) at noon.