Social Distancing Influences Holy Week Celebration Guidelines in Liberia

Catholic Bishops' Conference of Liberia

The government directive on social distancing aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 has had an influence on Holy Week celebrations in many nations of the world, including the West African country of Liberia where Catholic Bishops have issued guidelines that conform to the social distance restriction.

The country has reported seven confirmed cases of COVID-19.

In their April 1 collective statement with the guidelines, the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Liberia (CABICOL) have directed that in places where there are restrictions around public gathering for worship, the lay faithful will “follow the celebration through live broadcast on social media.”

The Bishops have canceled gathering for procession that characterizes the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem celebrated as Palm Sunday, limiting the liturgy to church buildings.

“The commemoration of the Lord's Entrance into Jerusalem is to be celebrated within sacred buildings; the second form given in the Roman Missal is to be adopted in Cathedral churches, while the third form is to be used in parish churches and in other places,” the Bishops have directed, referencing the April 5 ceremony.


In the statement, the Bishops have given themselves the option to celebrate or postpone Chrism Mass in their respective dioceses.

They have advised Bishops who opt to go ahead with the Chrism Mass to celebrate it “without the presence of the faithful and following the prevailing directives regarding social distancing and hygiene.”

In this regard, the clergy, religious, and the lay faithful in the diocese will have to be informed of the time and the place of the celebration, so that, wherever possible, they can follow it through the available means of communication.

Regarding Mass for the Lord’s Supper, the West African Prelates have advised that the washing of the feet be omitted. Additionally, instead of the procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose, it “should be kept in the tabernacle.”

“On this day (Holy Thursday), priests are granted the exceptional faculty to celebrate Mass in a suitable place, without the presence of the people,” the Bishops have directed in their four-page collective statement and further advised, “Priests who are unable to celebrate Mass should instead pray Vespers of the day.”

More in Africa

For Good Friday service, the Church leaders direct that the adoration of the Holy Cross by kissing “be limited solely to the Celebrant.” The Holy Cross, the Bishops recommend, could then be “held elevated higher for a brief time for adoration by others.”

On Holy Saturday, “The liturgy of the Easter Vigil is to be celebrated only in the Cathedral and in parish churches,” the Bishops have directed in their collective statement signed by CABICOL President, Archbishop Anthony Borwah.

In line with the COVID-19 restrictions, the Bishops have directed, “For the Lucernarium, the Paschal Candle is lit without the blessing of the fire and the procession, after which the Exsultet (Easter Proclamation) is sung.”

To shorten the duration of the celebration of the Easter Vigil, the Bishops have recommended a reduction in the number of readings.

For the Baptismal Liturgy, the Bishops would like that “only the ‘Renewal of Baptismal Promises’ is done.” 


The Prelates have appealed for efforts to be made to use social communications to help the faithful celebrate the Vigil “as the Mother of all Vigils, leading them to have greater hope in the victory of the Risen Lord, who conquered sin and death.”

Considering the situation presented by COVID-19, the Liberian Catholic leaders have directed that during the liturgical celebration of the Passion of the Lord “special intention is made for those who find themselves in distress, the sick and the dead,” particularly in the Universal Prayer.

“In the midst of this pandemic we should experience the Resurrection of the Lord as the certainty of our victory, who conquered sin and death,” the Bishops have noted, underscoring the need for “more intensive prayers.”

“We encourage daily recitation of the Holy Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet by families and individuals,” they have recommended in their collective statement in which they note that Paschal Triduum “remains the heart and apex of the Liturgical Year.”