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“Virtual” Mass never substitutes in-person participation

Celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Help Christians, 24 May, Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians, Turin (ANSA)

In a Letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences, the Congregation for Divine Worship affirms the necessity of a return to the normality of Christian life, where the health care crisis permits, saying that assisting at a virtual Mass cannot be compared to the physical presence of the faithful at a liturgy.

By Vatican News

There is an urgent need to return to a normal experience of Christian life through the physical presence of the faithful at Mass, where circumstances permit, says Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

In a Letter addressed to the Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences, Cardinal Sarah insists that “virtual” services cannot compare to, and cannot replace, personal participation in the liturgy. The Letter, bearing the title, “Let us return to the Eucharist with joy!” was published with the approval of Pope Francis, which he granted on 3 September.

Communitarian dimension of the Christian life

“The pandemic caused by the new coronavirus has produced upheavals,” not only in social and familial relationships, “but also in the life of the Christian community, including the liturgical dimension,” writes Cardinal Sarah.

He notes, “This community dimension has a theological meaning: God is a relationship of Persons in the Most Holy Trinity”; and God “puts Himself in relationship with man and woman and calls them in turn to relationship with Him.” So, while pagans built temples to the various deities, to which the people had no access, “Christians, as soon as they enjoyed freedom of worship, immediately built places that were the domus Dei et domus ecclesiae, where the faithful could recognize themselves as the community of God…” For this reason, the Letter continues, “the house of the Lord presupposes the presence of the family of the children of God.”

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