HANOVER, Germany — Lutheran and Catholic churches in Switzerland and Germany are planning for people to celebrate religious Christmas services at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Germany, Matthias Kopp, spokesman for the Catholic bishops' conference, said Catholic and Lutheran churches will publish a mini brochure that will be available to download. The German bishops' conference will also provide half a million printed copies for dioceses, reported the German Catholic news agency KNA.
The brochure "will contain the Christmas Gospel, Christmas carols and two prayers," said Kopp. He said it is aimed at families who do not want to expose themselves to any risk of infection during the Christmas service, as well as at older people.
The Catholic bishops' conference of Switzerland announced Nov. 17 that in partnership with the Lutheran church and with the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland, an Old Catholic denomination, they were launching a project called "Christmas all the same; light all the same."
"This year we cannot celebrate Christmas where and how we would like: in church, with our families -- large or small -- with friends and relatives," the Catholic bishops' conference said in a statement. "Many of us will be in quarantine or self-isolating and could feel excluded; others must work over the Christmas holidays to provide essential services.
"However, no matter how adverse the circumstances are, Jesus comes into the world as light and takes his place among us," the statement said. "The three national churches ask everyone who celebrates Christmas to do so differently this year, but always filled with hope no matter the restrictions or protective measures."
The project will include prayers for home celebrations, but also an encouragement to display Nativity scenes and lighted stars "in the street, in houses, in churches, in places that no one had ever thought of, including in the virtual world," the bishops said.
"Let's celebrate Christmas differently, with intensity and depth," the statement said.
Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, deputy president of the German bishops' conference, told KNA Nov. 17 that the pandemic would prompt people to slow down and take stock of what is important.
"If, for example, the busy hustle and bustle at Christmas disappears, this could lead to a more intensive experience" of the feast, he told KNA.
Kopp stressed that it was impossible to predict the further development of the pandemic and its consequences, but he added: "Christmas will take place -- in whatever form.”