On Monday evening, the Dutch government announced that the current COVID-19 regulations will not be relaxed during the holiday season. This also means only thirty people will be allowed at each church’s Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
The southern Diocese of Roermond in the Netherlands has therefore decided to organize a drive-in Mass on Christmas Eve on a large festival site to give as many people as possible the opportunity to attend Mass that evening.
Bishop Harrie Smeets of Roermond will celebrate Mass on a podium on Christmas Eve. People can follow the service from the inside of their car, making it completely safe and in line with the Dutch COVID-19 regulations.
According to the diocese the bishop wants to offer an alternative to the many people who cannot attend church on Christmas Eve this year.
The drive-in Mass will take place on a site where every year one of the biggest music festivals of the Netherlands, called Pinkpop, takes place. There is room for five hundred cars, so a larger number of people will be able to attend the Christmas Eve liturgy.
Within days all the available tickets were taken, and only these five hundred cars will be allowed on site.
The diocese says that visitors must remain in their car during the entire Mass and only people from one household are allowed in each car. And of course, attendees who have symptoms of COVID-19 are asked to stay home.
Two screens will be set up next to the stage, so that everyone has a good view of the podium. The service can be followed via the car radio. There will be no communion given, to make sure that there will be no contact between the people in the cars and people outside.
During Mass, the lights and the engine of the car must be turned off. The diocese has issued a reminder that for most cars this means that the heating will also be off, and people are therefore advised to dress accordingly.
On Monday, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte told the nation that as of Dec. 15, the Netherlands would go into its strictest lockdown yet until at least Jan. 19. Except for supermarkets, most non-food shops will be closed, as well as schools, gyms, cinemas, and amusement parks. People are strongly advised not to travel and to stay indoors as much as possible.
Under the current lockdown, churches are still allowed to organize public worship, with a maximum of thirty people. This means people will be able to attend Christmas Mass. However, the Dutch bishops may still decide later this week to close all churches after all during the five-week lockdown to align with the government regulations.
This news article was translated for Crux by Susanne Kurstjens-van den Berk.