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Indonesian cardinal urges 'right choices' amid pandemic

Cardinal Suharyo tells Catholics to use faith to understand and overcome testing times in Lent message

Indonesian cardinal urges 'right choices' amid pandemic

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta. (Photo: Katharina R. Lestari/UCA News)

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta has issued a Lenten pastoral letter calling on Catholics to seize their lives back with regard to God to help meet the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Just like last year, we enter the Lenten season during a difficult time caused by the coronavirus which has shaken all fields of life,” the prelate said in the letter read out in a video message played during Sunday Masses on Feb. 14 ahead of Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

“No matter how hard the reality we are facing is, we must keep believing that God is love. This pandemic is not a punishment given by God because of our sins but is one of the horrible signs of the times, of which we must find the meaning from the perspective of our faith.”

He pointed to a prayer recited by Pope Francis in March last year in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.

“You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgment but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others, Cardinal Suharyo said, quoting the prayer.

He acknowledged that “choosing what matters and what passes away” would not be easy as many tend to choose easy and fun paths.

“Lent is a special time given by the Church to all of us to train ourselves to choose the right way … Just like a man with leprosy who refused to give up to his helplessness and chose to get his life back on track with regard to God, we Catholics in this Archdiocese of Jakarta want to choose the right way in this difficult time,” he said.

“We formulate our choice in this slogan: ‘Love More, Involve More, Be Blessings More.’ Hope it will not be just a nice slogan but will be a guide for all of us to move forward as followers of Christ.”

According to Cardinal Suharyo, Catholics can put the slogan into practice by observing health and social distancing protocols and by joining in the government’s Covid-19 vaccination drive, officially launched last month.

Olivia Damara from St. Joseph Parish in the Matraman district of the Indonesian capital welcomed the prelate’s call and said that Lent “is a time to reflect on what I have given to God.”

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“Cardinal Suharyo’s letter encourages me to be a better person and to get closer to God, particularly in this difficult time. His message gives me the strength to face the Covid-19 pandemic in the right way. I feel encouraged to care more about others by observing social distancing and health protocols so as to keep everyone safe,” she told UCA News.

Indonesia has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. As of Feb. 14, the country had recorded 1,210,703 Covid-19 cases and 32,936 deaths. 

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