Atlanta Archdiocese suspends in-person Mass until after Easter

The Archdiocese of Atlanta has outlined new guidelines for its parishes, that extends the suspension of masses through April 19, which will cover Palm Sunday and Easter.

In a memo to priests, deacons and parish leaders, Bishop Joel M. Konzen, the diocesan administrator, cited the continued spread of the coronavirus, which has forced many places of worship to forgo in-person services for livestreaming.

“If we should be granted the ability to return to public gatherings sooner, we will, of course, alter this plan accordingly,” said Konzen in the memo according to the archdiocese’s website.

Pastors and other priests are asked to observe Palm Sunday services privately on April 5 . The masses will be celebrated with only those necessary, according to the archdiocese.

Palms will be blessed and distributed at a later date.

Atlanta’s bishops will celebrate the liturgies of the Easter triduum, which  begins the evening of Holy Thursday and ends the evening of Easter Sunday, at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta. Those masses will  be broadcast livestream.

Such changes are happening globally.

In Rome, Pope Francis will celebrate the Holy Week liturgies in St. Peter’s Basilica without the public.

The memo was extensive is outlining what will occur during Holy Week, which is also the last week of Lent.

The memo also outlined the guidelines for observances of Holy Thursday Mass, which will omit washing of the feet. People will not be present during Good Friday or Easter Sunday.

Konzen suggested, as a show of unity, for churches to ring their bells.

“For those within earshot, it can be a call to spiritual communion and contemplation of the Eucharistic mystery,” he said in the memo, according to the website.

The memo went further, addressing sacraments such as confession. He said confessions would no long be held in confessional boxed or closed rooms.

Instead, they would be held in a well-ventilated area that provides for social distancing and confidentiality, if possible.

In-person religious education programs at parishes are suspended until April 20.

Parishes that can be livestreamed can be found on the website or the individual parish's social media.