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Jakarta Post

Churches across Indonesia cancel Easter celebrations amid growing COVID-19 pandemic

  • Agustinus Hari, Markus Makur, Belseran Christ and Benny Mawel 

    The Jakarta Post

Manado/East Manggarai/Ambon/Jayapura   /   Tue, March 24, 2020   /   09:41 pm
Churches across Indonesia cancel Easter celebrations amid growing COVID-19 pandemic Churchgoers pack Ruteng Cathedral in Ruteng, Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara to attend a Mass of Ordination of the new bishop on Thursday, March 19, 2020. (JP/Markus Makur)

Several churches across Indonesia have decided to cancel their Easter celebrations, planned for the coming weeks, amid the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

A number of churches in Manado, North Sulawesi, for example, have canceled their Easter-related activities in a bid to prevent further spread of the virus.

The synod of the Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa (GMIM) issued a letter announcing that it had canceled any events that would involve mass gatherings.

“All Easter activities that would involve many people are hereby canceled and replaced with worshiping from home. Sermons will also be broadcast through loudspeakers,” GMIM synod head Hein Areina said in the letter. 

The Archdiocese of Manado also advised against congregational worships in a letter addressed to all Catholic priests, nuns and brothers in Manado.

“From March 22 to April 4, all activities that gather people such as the celebration of the Eucharist, the Stations of the Cross, the liturgy of the Word, the confession of sins, choir practice and other activities are canceled,” Archdiocese Benedictus Estephanus Roly Untu said.

Read also: Indonesian churches call for online worship, sermons amid concerns over COVID-19

Benedictus said priests would privately conduct Mass on behalf of the faithful.

"The faithful should take this opportunity to develop their faith and build ecclesia domestica [domestic churches]. The faithful should continue to worship at home as a family," he said.

The Diocese of Amboina, Maluku also canceled Easter rituals after previously announcing that it was now prohibited to attend masses in the province as it had recorded one case of COVID-19 as of Monday.

“Mass can be held in [small] communities or at home, but I emphasize once again, no Mass with large crowds,” Amboina Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi said, adding that he was following instruction from the Vatican.

Mandagi, who is also the acting head of the Archdiocese of Merauke in Papua, had also earlier canceled all worship activities in Maluku, North Maluku, and Papua.

Meanwhile, Leo L. Ladjar of Jayapura diocese issued a circular advising congregation members to obey the social distancing policy until April 4 and explaining that this period could be extended if the authorities ordered so.

"If the situation has yet to return to normal, we'll look later whether we can still celebrate Easter Holy Week," Leo wrote in the circular.

Read also: COVID-19: Annual Easter Parade in East Nusa Tenggara canceled

The East Nusa Tenggara provincial administration has advised churches in the region not to hold congregational worship during Easter and the Holy Week leading up to the holiday, even though the province has yet to have any confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday.

The Archdiocese of Kupang also advised residents to postpone the celebration of the Eucharist for the next two weeks and to perform the Stations of the Cross devotions at home.

The Archdiocese also echoed the government’s advice of avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining physical distance in social interactions.

As of Tuesday, Indonesia had recorded 686 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 55 fatalities. (mfp)