Mumbai Archbishop Circular

 archbishop letter head
 AH: A03-008.                                                                                                                                                                01  February 1, 2021
The Parish Priests /Priests-in-charge Archdiocese of Bombay
Dear Fathers,

We are fast approaching the season of Lent. I had a fruitful meeting with the Council of Deans to discuss our pastoral preparations for this sacred season.
A review of the gradual opening of our Churches indicated that our passage to more normal services has been quite smooth. A hiccup was the sudden imposition of restrictive norms just prior to Christmas, which caused disruption to the planned arrangements in some of our Churches. We have now received notification of a further modification of the restrictions on numbers of faithful participating in religious services. For our Churches, we could revert to the numbers we had planned earlier, keeping the safety of our people and our priests in mind: one third of the capacity of your Church. There is no modification yet concerning Holy Communion.
1. Ash Wednesday
The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments has given Directives regarding the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. The priest says the formula from the altar ("Remember man ..." / "Repent and Believe in the Gospel") just once. The priest then wears the mask and sprinkles ashes on the faithful.
We discussed the modality for this. For convenience sake we felt that the most convenient would be that at the end of Mass the faithful come in line towards the altar and a pinch of ash is sprinkled on the head of each one by the Priest / Ministers appointed. Then they exit the Church for Holy Communion. Note that, ashes are sprinkled at the end of the Mass and not after the homily. For smaller Congregations, this change may not be necessary. I leave it to Parish Priests to decide.
As many people wish to begin Lent with attending Mass, I request our priests to celebrate extra Masses on Ash Wednesday.
Priests who are alone in a parish could have a special service outside Mass with a short liturgy of the Word and the sprinkling of ashes.
Please ensure that wearing of masks and social distancing norms are observed, because we may have big Congregations on Ash Wednesday.
2. Confessions
During the period of Lent many of the faithful desire to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I request that priests sit for Confession after Mass, at least a couple of times during the week at preannounced timings. Some priests have said they prefer to sit for Confession before Mass. That is fine. Make it convenient for our people. Please observe social distancing. I recommend that the priests wear a mask while hearing Confession.
3. Blessing of throats
Next week we will have the blessing of throats on the Feast of St. Blaise (February 3). We should avoid physical contact with candles touching the throats of the faithful. Hence, we could follow the same procedure as for ashes. Unless the Congregation is small, the blessing could be after Mass, just before the people exit for Holy Communion. The priest says the prayer of blessing once. Then while the priest holds the crossed candles above, the Congregation slowly files past under the candles without any individual blessing. Then they move out of the Church and those who wish to receive Holy Communion proceed to the Eucharistic Minister. Single priest parishes may have an extra service with a brief Liturgy of the Word just for the blessing of throats.
4. Prayer of Collect
The competent Dicastery from Rome has directed that because of possible theological misunderstandings the word "one" at the end of the Collect be dropped (“who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit one God forever and ever"). This takes effect immediately.
5. New Lectionary
Rome has officially confirmed the new Lectionary for India and it would be advisable that all of us gradually begin to use it. I would suggest that by Ash Wednesday all our Churches could use the new Lectionary. Copies are available at St. Paul's Book Centre, Bandra (Cost: Rs. 7,500 for a set).
6. Mission Sunday Collection
We should not forget the Missions. The Deans suggested that the Mission Sunday collection could be made on Ash Wednesday.
7. Chrism Mass
We plan to have a Recollection and Chrism Mass on March 18 and March 25. We will get back to you with details.
Thanking you for all your efforts, assuring you of my prayers and with affectionate regards and best wishes, I remain
Yours sincerely in Christ,
* Oswald Cardinal Gracias
Archbishop of Bombay