St. Mary of Perpetual Help Cathedral Church in Samarinda, capital of East Kalimantan province. (Photo courtesy of Father Moses Komela Avan)
The archdioceses of Jakarta and Samarinda will both reopen their churches this week after local authorities began to ease social restrictions imposed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Religious activities may resume starting on June 5. All mosques, churches as well as Buddhist and Hindu temples can be reopened but only for regular activities,” Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan said in a live-streamed press conference on June 4. “All places of worship must obey health protocols.”
The easing of restrictions in East Kalimantan province, which covers Samarinda Archdiocese, started on June 1 and included the reopening of places of worship on condition that people continue to wear face masks and maintain social distancing.
“Parishes may resume public Sunday Masses starting June 6 and 7,” Archbishop Yustinus Harjosusanto of Samarinda said in a letter received by UCA News on June 3.
“For a certain period, Eucharistic celebrations can be held only at parish churches. Eucharistic celebrations and worship held without priests at mission station churches and in neighborhood communities are still suspended until a further decision is made by the archdiocese,” the Holy Family prelate said.
For each Sunday Mass, he said, people must wear face masks and undergo temperature tests before entering a church. Social distancing must also be observed while inside, he added.
“To keep Massgoers’ hands clean, parishes must provide hand sanitizer and churches must also be disinfected prior to a Mass,” he said.
Archbishop Harjosusanto called on parish pastoral councils to report on their preparations before holding their first Mass.
“For parishes based in municipalities and districts, the report should be sent to mayors and district chiefs. For other parishes, their report should be sent to sub-district heads,” he said.
According to the archdiocese’s vicar general, Father Moses Komela Avan, nine of its 26 parishes, including St. Mary of Perpetual Help Cathedral in Samarinda, are ready to resume Sunday Masses.
“We are preparing everything we need,” said Father Avan, who is also the cathedral’s parish priest.
He said his parishioners are looking forward to the reopening of the cathedral church.
“We understand the safety measures and do not want our church to become a new coronavirus transmission cluster,” he said.
Referring to physical distancing for the upcoming Masses, Father Avan said he has divided parishioners into four groups of 1,000 and will hold four separate Masses to prevent overcrowding
As of June 3, East Kalimantan province had recorded 310 out of 28,233 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Indonesia. The country had recorded 1,698 deaths.