I. “VACCINE PASS” SCHEME APPLICABLE TO RELIGIOUS PREMISES
Under Stage One (February 24 – April 29) of the “Vaccine Pass” scheme, all persons aged twelve or above wishing to enter or remain in religious premises must have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. These persons must use the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile application and present the QR code of their vaccination record or the COVID-19 Vaccination Exemption Certification (Exemption Certificate).Religious premises open to visitors should install the “QR Code Verification Scanner” for verification of whether the visitors meet the above requirements, while the scanned records shouldbe kept for 31 days.Visitors to religious premises who are exempted from the above-mentioned requirement include children aged under 12 and holders of the Exemption Certificate. For more details, see Chancery Notice of 24 February 2022, n.2, available at the Diocesan Website (www.catholic.org.hk).According to a clarification of the Home Affairs Bureau, under the “Vaccine Pass” scheme,“religious premises” only refer to premises where liturgical functions are held, i.e., churches, chapels and Mass centres, but not to such premises as parish offices or conference rooms.In accordance with the anti-pandemic measures of the Government, from February 24 to April 20, churches and chapels where public Masses are regularly held remain temporarily closed, except in the case of a wedding (participants not exceeding five persons) or a funeral (no restriction on number of participants). However, those taking part in the two religious ceremonies must meet the above-mentioned requirement for entering churches or chapels.
II. ONLINE LENTEN DEVOTIONS AT THE DIOCESAN LEVEL
Bishop Stephen CHOW, S.J., reminds us that we must not underestimate the power of prayer.In order that we may better prepare ourselves for the coming Paschal Triduum and lend support to the local efforts in combating the pandemic, the Bishop encourages both clergy and laity to take part actively in the following online Lenten spiritual exercises:1. Holy Hour: on five consecutive Wednesdays (March 16, 23 and 30; April 6 and 13), at 8:00p.m., to be officiated by Bishop Stephen CHOW, S.J., or Bishop Joseph HA, OFM, including Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Scripture reading, homily and prayers for healthcare workers, those infected by the pandemic, those who have died during the pandemic or wars, and for Ukraine and world peace. On April 13, Wednesday of Holy Week, the focus will be on praying for God’s forgiveness for all sinners, in particular ourselves.
2. Meditations on the Way of the Cross: on four consecutive Fridays (March 18 and 25; April 1 and 8), at 8:00p.m., to be conducted by a Vicar General.
III. ONLINE HOLY WEEK LITURGY AT THE DIOCESAN LEVEL1. Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday (April 14), at 11:00a.m., to be presided over by Bishop Stephen CHOW, S.J., and concelebrated by Bishop Joseph HA, OFM, and the eight Deans, with deacons assisting. All priests, deacons and lay people are invited to participate in the online liturgy, as an expression of their communion with the Bishop. The Holy Oils will later be distributed among the parishes under each Deanery.2. The Paschal Triduum (April 14 to 16 — the Lord’s Supper, the Passion of the Lord, Easter Vigil) : officiated by Bishop Stephen CHOW, S.J., and details to be announced.
Notes:1. The Lenten devotions listed in sections II and III above will be broadcast live at the diocesan website, www.catholic.org.hk.2. Bishop Stephen CHOW, S.J., calls on parishes, taking into account their own circumstances, to organize (especially online) Lenten devotions for the faithful. The Bishop also exhorts parish clergy, under the pandemic, to follow the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, by attending to the pastoral needs of the faithful, such as hearing their confessions, anointing the sick and bringing them Holy Communion.3. The restrictions occasioned by the pandemic may prevent priests from entering hospital wards to hear confessions, administer anointing or bring Holy Communion to the sick.Nevertheless, the faithful are to bear in mind that “the Lord loves a contrite heart more than holocausts”, and so one who is truly repentant, even though he/she be unable to go to confession, will obtain the forgiveness of his/her sins and God’s grace.