Updated: March 26, 2020 07:39 AM GMT
Elderly Timor-Leste Catholics join the Senhor Morto procession, a Good Friday tradition held since the Portuguese landed in Oecusse in 1515, in this 2019 file photo. (Photo: Thomas Ora/UCA News)
The Timor-Leste Bishops’ Conference has suspended all Holy Week and Easter celebrations in churches as part of efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.Instead, they are encouraging Catholics to follow Masses broadcast live via radio and television networks.This is the first time the Timor-Leste Church has suspended Holy Week liturgy since Christianity was introduced there by Portuguese missionaries five centuries ago. The bishops made the decision three days after the health ministry confirmed the predominantly Catholic country’s first Covid-19 case.A few hours after the ministry announced the first case on March 21, Archbishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili suspended Masses and church-related activities in Dili from March 21-28.However, the bishops extended the suspension of Masses until Easter, including the centuries-old Senhor Morto procession, a Good Friday tradition held since the Portuguese landed in Oecusse in 1515.The bishops said in their statement, read by Archbishop da Silva on March 24, that their decision was in line with Pope Francis' appeal and measures taken by the universal Church to avoid spreading the virus through church gatherings."People can celebrate in their own homes via radio and television. Although they will not receive Holy Communion, they can [unite] through a prayer of spiritual communion," Archbishop da Silva said.He said the text of the spiritual communion prayer had been distributed to all parishes in Dili Archdiocese and the dioceses of Baucau and Maliana.Archbishop da Silva said Catholics should not be saddened by the suspension of Holy Week and Easter liturgies but could unite with other Catholics throughout the world in prayers.