(Source: MJ/Vatican News)

There is another positive case of COVID-19 in the Vatican, as official Holy See news website Vatican News reports.

An employee of the Holy See, who had travelled outside Rome in the first half of March, to assist his sick relatives, was recently confirmed positive, said the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, on Wednesday.

At the first symptoms, the person was hospitalised locally without returning to Rome and is now under close observation.

With this, the number of COVID-19-positive cases in Vatican City and among employees of the Holy See now stands at 8, Bruni said.

Of these, he said two have been cured, one who has been discharged from the hospital is recovering, two are still hospitalised and undergoing treatment and three who are without symptoms are in mandatory self-quarantine.

The Pope’s Easter liturgies

In the meantime, the Vatican Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Pope has had to quickly reorganise the way the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday rites are to be celebrated by the pontiff this year during the coronavirus lockdown.

While Pope Francis will preside over them without the physical presence of the faithful, millions will join him spiritually through the media.

Radio, television and the internet will allow the Pope to be close to those unable to participate in the liturgies of this unique Easter Triduum.

The crucifix of St. Marcellus and the Salus populi Romani icon will be present during all the liturgies.

Both were already visible during the Pope’s prayer in St. Peter’s Square on 27 March and during Palm Sunday Mass on 5 April.

And although the “miraculous” St. Marcellus crucifix – which escaped a 1519 fire unscathed and is said to have delivered Rome from the plague in 1522 – was damaged by rain during the Pope’s extraordinary Urbi et orbi blessing, the Vatican said through its Vatican News website April 5 that the damage to the cross was not as serious as some outlets reported.

“Contrary to what some people… reported, the work of art did not undergo grave or significant damage”, Vatican News said.

“It required only some minor retouching, done on a single morning, by art restoration experts from the Vatican Museum, in agreement with the appropriate Italian authorities.

“The minor retouching were related to small pieces that had become detached.

Some of the damage was pre-existent, while other damage happened as a result of being moved.

“These minor and rapid interventions secured the safety of the work of art, which will return to the Church of St Marcello after the Easter Triduum”.

Holy Thursday

On Holy Thursday, the Pope will not preside at the Chrism Mass, which will be celebrated at a later date.

The Mass in Coena Domini (of the Lord’s Supper), which commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, will be held at 6pm (Rome time) at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

It will not include the traditional washing of the feet which can, in any case, be omitted. There will be no procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose either.

Good Friday

On Good Friday, the Liturgy of the Passion with the Adoration of the Cross, will take place at 6pm in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Crucifix of St. Marcellus will be covered.

The Preacher of the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, will deliver a meditation, after which the Crucifix will be revealed. Adoration will follow, without the traditional kissing of the Cross.

The Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis, will take place at 9pm on Good Friday evening in St. Peter’s Square.

The Stations will include stops around Bernini’s colonnade and the obelisk at the centre of the Square, concluding at the steps leading up to St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Cross will be carried by two groups: prisoners from Padua, who wrote some of the meditations, and doctors and nurses from the Vatican Healthcare Department.

Doctors and nurses continue to be on the front line in the service of those affected by the pandemic.

Holy Saturday

The Holy Saturday Vigil will begin at 9pm in St. Peter’s Basilica.

No baptisms will be performed during the liturgy. The fire will be lit behind the Altar of the Confession. Instead of lighting candles, the lights of the Basilica will come on and accompany the three “Lumen Christi” invocations during the procession to the Altar of the Chair.

The bells of the Basilica will ring at the moment of the “Gloria”, announcing the Resurrection.

Easter Sunday

The Pope will celebrate Easter Sunday Mass at 11am at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Gospel will be proclaimed in Greek and Latin.

At the end of Mass, Pope Francis will go to the Sacristy to remove his vestments, before returning to the Altar of the Confession.

From there, he will deliver his Urbi et orbi message and give his Easter blessing.

The entire celebration will take place inside the Basilica.

More on Novena on the COVID-19 outbreak in the Vatican:

Vatican tests 170 people for COVID-19, confirms two new positives but says Pope “not involved”

Pope negative for COVID-19 after housemate, collaborator catches disease

Vatican closes outpatient services after first COVID-19 infection, but says Pope on mend from cold

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