Indonesian archbishop calls for Catholic-only Advent

Medan prelate says ecumenical Christmas celebrations should wait until after Dec. 24
Indonesian archbishop calls for Catholic-only Advent

A school choir sings during a Christmas celebration at St. Joseph Church in Matraman, East Jakarta. Capuchin Archbishop Kornelius Sipayung of Medan has called on local Catholics to avoid ecumenical Christmas celebrations during the Advent season. (Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Parish) 

An archbishop in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province is calling on Catholics not to participate in ecumenical Christmas celebrations during the Advent season.

In a circular, Archbishop Kornelius Sipayung of Medan reminded Catholics that Advent holds a significant meaning to Catholics as it is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus in the second coming.

As such, the universal Church’s policy is not to encourage ecumenical events during the Advent season.

He said its observance should not face distractions from ecumenical celebrations which draw Catholics’ attention away from Advent’s importance.

“While continuing to support and strive for ecumenical movements, I call on all priests and religious men and women as well as lay Catholics in this archdiocese to take an active part in ecumenical Christmas celebrations held after Dec. 24, instead of before that date, every year,” the circular said.

Speaking to ucanews on Dec. 13, the archbishop said he sent out the warning as Catholics in his archdiocese were more susceptible to taking part in ecumenical events prior to Christmas than elsewhere.  

He said his diocese has a unique characteristic in that most Catholics belong to the Christian-majority Batak ethnic group, which has many clans belonging to different Christian denominations.

“A number of Catholics attend many ecumenical Christmas celebrations held by clans from early December. This has seen the number of Catholics attending Christmas Masses decrease significantly because people become tired of going to many Christmas celebrations,” Archbishop Sipayung said.

“What they should do is to avoid ecumenical Christmas celebrations during the Advent season.” 

Agnes Veronika, a 22-year-old parishioner of Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral Church in Medan, said obeying the request would be difficult.

“I understand Catholics are not allowed to join in ecumenical Christmas celebrations during the Advent season, and my parents have continued to remind me of this. But I find it hard to say no to my Protestant friends when they ask me to go,” she said.

Reverend Darwis Manurung, chairman of the North Sumatra chapter of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI), said he has always respected the Catholic Church’s policy in relation to Christmas celebrations. 

“The Catholic Church has to stick to its rules,” he said, adding that the PGI usually holds ecumenical Christmas celebrations after Dec. 25 out of respect to Catholic traditions.

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