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Bangladesh Church suspends online Sunday Masses

Bishops follow Vatican instructions but decision disappoints some Catholics

Bangladesh Church suspends online Sunday Masses

A Catholic priest celebrates Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Comilla district of Bangladesh in this file photo. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News) 

The Catholic Church in Bangladesh has decided to suspend live broadcasting of Sunday Masses on social media site Facebook in a move that has triggered a mixed reaction from the faithful.

As per the decision of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB), live broadcasts of Sunday Masses have been suspended, says a notice posted on the Facebook page of Weekly Pratibeshi, a national Catholic magazine, on Oct. 25.

The CBCB started broadcasting online Masses in late March through Facebook Live, just a few days before Bangladesh’s government enforced a nationwide shutdown to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government lifted the shutdown and started easing travel restrictions from May 31 on condition of following health guidelines including use of masks, sanitizers and physical distancing.

Father Augustine Bulbul Rebeiro, secretary of the CBCB’s Commission for Social Communications, said church authorities took the decision to suspend broadcasts of Masses in accordance with instructions from the Vatican and the current situation of the country.

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“From Vatican news, we came to know around a month ago that Pope Francis directed churches to hold the Eucharist publicly. Moreover, the country has eased restrictions on public gatherings on condition of following health guidelines.  However, it does not mean online Masses are stopped forever. They might be introduced again depending on the situation of the country or if the Covid-19 situation gets worse,” Father Rebeiro told UCA News.

Live broadcasts of Masses might be considered on special occasions, but the Church emphasizes Masses with a public presence as they are “a celebration, not a program,” the priest noted.

"The CBCB has yet to discuss having an online Eucharist regularly as many countries do it for persons with special needs and sickness," Father Rebeiro added.

Anthony Joseph Costa, a Catholic and development worker based in a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, was upset over the decision.

“There is no church nearby, so in groups we have been attending online Sunday Masses for months regularly, but we couldn’t attend last Sunday. Online Mass gave us hope but it is no more. The authority should think about revising the decision,” Costa, originally from Pabna district, told UCA News.

Sumon Sarder, a Catholic and development worker based in Kurigram district, expressed similar sentiments.

Only twice in a year, during Christmas and Easter vacations, he goes to his village home in Gopalganj district and attends Mass in a church.

“I have been living here with my five-member family and there is no church in the area. For the past seven months, we have been happy to attend online Sunday Masses. I appeal to the CBCB to reconsider the decision,” he told UCA News

Some Catholics supported the decision.

“I thank the church authority for realizing people have stopped attending Masses as they could participate online. It remains to be seen whether they start going to church now,” Sagar Sonjib Corraya from Dhaka commented on Facebook.

Bangladesh has recorded 399,000 cases of Covid-19 and 5,803 deaths, according to government data. 

Health experts have warned of a second wave of the pandemic during winter. On Oct. 25, the government announced a “no mask, no service” policy, which means people not wearing masks won’t get services in state-run organizations.

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