Indonesian actor, Hamish Daud, (2nd left) carries the torch for the Asian Games during the torch relay at Kuta beach area in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali in this July 23, photo. Jakarta and Palembang in Sumatra will host about 11,000 athletes and 5,000 officials from 45 Asian countries for the Asian Games, which will be held from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2. (Photo by Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP)
Catholic priests and laypeople in the Indonesian archdioceses of Jakarta and Palembang are gearing up to help athletes and officials during the upcoming Asian Games.
More than 11,000 athletes from at least 45 countries will participate in the games due to be held in Jakarta and the Sumatran city of Palembang from Aug. 18 until Sept. 2.
It will be the second time Indonesia has hosted the Asian Games. The last time was in 1962 when Jakarta played host.
"We are preparing some priests, particularly those who can speak foreign languages, to offer Mass for Catholic athletes," Sacred Heart of Jesus Archbishop Aloysius Sudarso of Palembang told ucanews.com on Aug. 14.
He said local authorities have made places of worship available, including a Catholic church close to the athlete's village in Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra province.
Several doctors from Catholic hospitals in the province will also be on hand to serve the athletes.
"They are specialists who will join medical teams prepared for the competition," the prelate said.
Dozens of Catholic laypeople have volunteered to help organize events, including a parishioner from St. Francis de Sales Church in Palembang, who is a member of the organizing team to stage the bowling, one of 40 sports in the competition.
Archbishop Aloysius Sudarso of Palembang earlier issued a letter calling on local Catholics to support the competition.
"Let's make it a multi-cultural and multi-religious event," he said. "We hope it will carry a message of unity."
Jakarta Archdiocese issued a similar letter in July, calling on parishes to show solidarity by placing a banner with a message of support in church compounds and also on social media.
Father Antonius Suyadi, chairman of the archdiocese's commission for ecumenical and interreligious affairs, said the Asian Games committee has asked the archdiocese to participate in the torch relay on Aug. 16.
"A priest will join other religious leaders in the torch relay," he told ucanews.com, from Jakarta's National Monument to Gelora Bung Karno Stadium — one of the main Asian Games venues — in the south of the capital.
During the two-week competition, at least 70 schools — including Catholic ones — located close to the main venues, will be closed.
Theresia Mariana, 41, said she does not mind that schools will be closed during the games.
"We can learn about unity and peace from the competition," the mother of two said.