“Christmas is not cancelled”

The Essen Cathedral © Ilija Ascic (shutterstock)

As the first Catholic bishop in North Rhine-Westphalia, Essen’s Chief Shepherd Franz Josef Overbeck leaves it up to his parishes to forego Christmas services during the Corona crisis. In case of doubt, public celebrations should rather be canceled.

This is what the Ruhr bishop writes in a letter to pastors, church councils and parish councils that became known on Friday. "If those responsible for a parish come to the conclusion that it is not safe to celebrate presence services on site, then a waiver is called for."This also applies if there are too few personnel to implement the stricter requirements.

Overbeck: "Christmas is not cancelled"

From a seven-day incidence of 300 the diocese of Essen advises its parishes in any case to cancel public church services, it said. In recent days, the Protestant regional churches of Westphalia and Lippe had recommended a waiver. The Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (EKiR), like the diocese of Essen, lets congregations decide independently whether to hold attendance services. The other four Catholic dioceses in NRW, on the other hand – Munster, Aachen, Paderborn and Cologne – are sticking to public celebrations despite the Corona lockdown.

"What is clear is that Christmas will not be cancelled!", Overbeck emphasized. God would not be in lockdown. The Ruhr bishop encouraged people to stand by each other in the days ahead. "Perhaps this Christmas, comforting, encouraging phone calls, letters and even concrete offers of help to the anxious, the lonely, the overburdened and, not least, the sick will be of paramount importance."

Diocese of Essen refers to alternatives

According to information, at least eight of the 42 parishes between Duisburg, Bochum and the Sauerland region of Mark have already canceled presence services. The Essen diocese referred to alternatives. Thus the churches are open for prayer and for visits to the cribs. Starting next week, there will also be an overview of various offerings as well as television, radio and online services on the diocese’s homepage.

According to the current Corona protection ordinance of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, public services are possible in principle with conditions. Still the minimum distance and the mask obligation apply also at the place. In addition, the office of order must be informed and the congregation is not allowed to sing.

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