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Macau Catholics defy pandemic for Lord Jesus festival

Procession dates back to 1708 when the Chinese territory was under Portuguese rule

UCA News reporter, Macau

UCA News reporter, Macau

Published: February 28, 2021 05:00 PM GMT

Updated: March 01, 2021 09:12 AM GMT

Macau Catholics defy pandemic for Lord Jesus festival

Catholics take part in a street procession during the Lord Jesus festival in Macau in this file photo. (Photo: Cultural Affairs Bureau of Macau)

Catholics in Macau celebrated the traditional Lord Jesus festival despite constraints posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The festival on the first Saturday and Sunday of the Christian holy season of Lent garnered enthusiasm among hundreds of faithful, though it was less boisterous than in previous years.

The Diocese of Macau canceled the popular festival last year due to the coronavirus threat in the Chinese-ruled territory.

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The former Portuguese colony, dubbed one of world’s mostly densely populated places, remains relatively unscathed from the pandemic, recording only 48 cases and no deaths.

The Lord Jesus festival, locally known as the Procession of the Great Jesus, is one of oldest religious and cultural festivals in Macau and dates back to 1708 when it was under Portuguese rule.

According to the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Macau, the festival is “one of the city’s representative religious events with distinctive features.”

On the first day of the festival, hundreds of Catholics joined a morning Mass at the Church of St. Augustine celebrated by Bishop Stephen Lee of Macau to mark the Feast of Five Wounds of Jesus.

In his sermon Bishop Lee said that “the passion of Christ provides spiritual blessings and solace for the faithful.”  

In the afternoon, another Mass was celebrated by Father Daniel Ribeiro, the parish vicar of the Cathedral of our Lady of the Nativity.

The Mass was followed by a sacred street procession with a chariot that had the statue of Jesus carrying the cross accompanied by a musical band.

Hundreds of faithful recited prayers in Chinese and Portuguese as they walked with the chariot and made stopovers for reflections.

Traditionally, the procession starts from St. Augustine Church and ends at the cathedral. After an overnight vigil, the statue returns to St. Augustine Church after the popular Way of the Cross.

Due to ongoing renovation of the cathedral, all its services have been temporarily transferred to St. Dominic's Church.

The statue of Jesus was transferred to St. Joseph Seminary at night for the Way of the Cross next day.

As the Way of the Cross was held at the courtyard of St. Joseph Seminary, the Canticle of Veronica once again became the highlight and one of the most moving parts of the event. Accompanied by prayers and songs, the scene conveyed a sense of grief reminding the faithful about the suffering of Jesus on the way to Calvary to be crucified.

Father Daniel Ribeiro delivered the concluding sermon, called the Calvary Sermon, where he stressed the great significance of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection for every Christian and urged the faithful to engage more in prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent.

The festival ended with blessings from Bishop Lee to the faithful.

Macau, a casino-cum-resort city, is a special administrative region of China that was under Portuguese rule from 1557 to 1999. With a population of about 680,000 in an area of about 33 square kilometers, Macau is one of the world’s most densely populated places.

Catholicism in Macau bears the legacy of Portuguese rule. Macau Diocese covers the entire island and has about 30,000 Catholics in nine parishes. Pope Gregory XIII erected the Diocese of Macau on Jan. 23, 1576, making it the first diocese created in the Far East.

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