The Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia has suspended all public Masses in all parishes, churches and chapels during the Christmas season due to public health concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim of Kuala Lumpur has decided to suspend all Masses from Christmas Eve on Dec. 24 until the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord on Jan. 6, according to a notice from the archdiocese’s chancellor Father Michael Chua.
Father Chua said that Archbishop Leow recognizes that the Christmas season is one of the most important and sacred times in the Church's liturgical calendar and he fully understands the passion and devotion of the faithful who wish to come together in public celebration, but the prelate had to come to the difficult decision because of unavoidable circumstances.
“Although the Church has been both prudent and cautious in implementing public safety recommendations as well as additional protocols proposed by the task force, such measures may be inadequate to address additional risks imposed by the expected large crowds for Christmas and the difficulty of complying with additional restrictions from the public health authorities (such as the limit in numbers allowed to attend Masses),” Father Chua said in a Dec. 17 statement.
“Due to relaxation of interstate travel restrictions and with the expected increase in visitors returning to their hometowns or traveling to holiday destinations during the holidays, contact listing and pre-registration for Masses may be rendered exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.”
Even though the National Security Council and state authorities may choose to relax their restrictions, the hike in sporadic cases and emergence of new clusters in recent weeks increased the risks of transmission in closed-door large gatherings such as a public Mass, Father Chua said.
Archbishop Leow has also dispensed the faithful from the obligation of participating in Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.
Masses during the Christmas season will be livestreamed from the official Archdiocesan TV and the faithful have been encouraged to follow Masses with due reverence.
The Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur is the largest among three archdioceses and six dioceses in Malaysia. It has more than 250,000 Catholics in up to 36 parishes, subparishes and centers.
The territory of the archdiocese covers four Malaysian states — Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Pahang and Terengganu — and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
Christians account for about 13 percent of Malaysia’s population of about 32 million, according to a census last year.
Malaysia has recorded 93,309 coronavirus cases and 437 deaths, according to data from worldometers.info.