This year 2020 brings in a Palm Sunday unseen by Copts living today. The Feast marking Jesus’s triumphal entry in Jerusalem, a major event cited in the four gospels, comes this year with churches closed, in a move by the Church leadership to abate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
True, churches in Egypt were closed many times throughout history—the praise sung to the Holy Virgin to this day says: “We ask you, Mother of God, let church doors open for the faithful” witnessing to such closures. But this is the first time in modern age that churches nationwide are closed.
For the congregation, this is a Palm Sunday without palm fronds which Copts would weave into crosses and ‘hearts’, without the palm procession, without the woven sheaves of new wheat that Copts hang on their doors from year to year. The palm fronds and woven wheat sheaves were usually sold a day or two before Palm Sunday at church gates, and were sure to bring on crowds. This year, with COVID-19 raging on, this cannot be allowed. Most heartbreaking, however, is that Palm Sunday comes with no Mass in local churches, no Communion.
Pope Tawadros has more than once expressed his pain at having to take the decision to close churches. But it was the right thing to do, he said citing some 10 reasons that led to that decision. Churches were sites of large gatherings, he said, and were sure to be crowded during Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and the Feast of the Resurrection which Copts celebrate on 19 April 2020. It was the duty of the Church, the Pope said, to protect the health of her children.
Meanwhile, Coptic churches of all sects have taken to social media for their congregations to join in prayer and contemplation. Christian TV channels have been broadcasting services and Mass celebrated in monasteries. And Pope Tawadros has been sending daily messages televised live to the Copts. The themes of his messages have been: “Lord have mercy” and “Message of Hope”.
Just as Copts were asking what the Church would decide to do about Palm Sunday, Holy Week services, and Midnight Mass on the eve of the Feast of the Resurrection, the spokesperson of the Coptic Orthodox Church said that Pope Tawadros, who will be at the Western Desert monastery of Anba Bishoy, will be presiding over services and Mass during Holy Week. This will start with Palm Sunday Mass on 12 April, and on through Holy Week daily services of Pascha, Holy Thursday Mass and Pascha services, Good Friday, Bright Saturday, and the Resurrection Mass.
All services and Mass will be televised live through the Christian channels: CTV, Aghabi, Me Sat, and al-Karma.
12 April 2020