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Virus forces Holy Week to go online in Indonesia

Increase in cases prompts several dioceses to plan celebrations in churches without congregations

Virus forces Holy Week to go online in Indonesia

Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in Jakarta holds an online Sunday Mass on March 22. (Photo courtesy of Jakarta Cathedral Church)  

Several dioceses in Indonesia have decided to hold Holy Week celebrations in churches without congregations as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the country.

The celebrations will be livestreamed or broadcast on radio instead.

The new arrangements were announced by four out of Indonesia’s 37 dioceses in fresh statements on the crisis. 

Jakarta Archdiocese decided to extend its Covid-19 emergency period to April 30. It had previously canceled all church activities between March 20 and April 3.

“All church activities involving crowds are called off. All celebrations of Holy Week, daily Masses, Sunday Masses and others will be broadcast online,” Father Samuel Pengestu, the archdiocese’s vicar general, said in a statement on March 24. 

“The celebrations of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil Mass and Easter Sunday Mass will be held in the cathedral church and parish churches without the physical presence of the faithful.” 

Semarang Archdiocese in Central Java province will be doing the same.

Archbishop Robertus Rubiyatmoko said it was a painful decision to make.

“There is sadness because local Catholics cannot attend Holy Week celebrations. These celebrations are big events for the faithful. Even though the celebrations will livestreamed and broadcast on radio, they can still feel the presence of God or the salvation of God in their own homes,” he said, adding that the celebrations will be shortened.

Bogor Diocese in West Java province will also livestream Holy Week celebrations from Beatae Mariae Virginis Cathedral Church in Bogor.

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“In this situation, let us find [again] and deepen the meaning of ourselves as Catholics and particularly of the Sacraments,” Franciscan Bishop Paskalis Bruno Syukur said in a statement.

In East Nusa Tenggara province, Larantuka Diocese decided to cancel the more than 500-year-old Semana Santa festival during Holy Week on Flores Island.  

The highlight of the festival, which usually attracts thousands of pilgrims, is a water procession on Good Friday where a statue of the baby Jesus is carried on a boat and taken to meet the Blessed Mother at another chapel.

“This year, Semana Santa … is canceled. Holy Week celebrations will be still held in the cathedral church and parish churches without the physical presence of the faithful. We realize that this decision will most likely upset many Catholics. But for the sake of the faith and the safety of many people … as well as the love for this nation, however, we had to make it,” Bishop Fransiskus Kopong Kung said.

Ronald Rein a church worker at Reinha Rosari Cathedral in Larantuka, said Bishop Kopong Kung had made a wise decision. “As a shepherd, he is responsible for the safety of the people,” he told UCA News.

Matheus Josephus Ade Riberu, a Semana Santa pilgrim from Tangerang in Banten province, said the festival’s cancellation was to be expected. “The Catholic Church is part of this nation. We need to show solidarity and to think about others,” he said. 

As of March 24, there were 686 confirmed coronavirus cases and 55 deaths in Indonesia, according to government figures.

Jakarta province ranked first with 424 confirmed cases, followed by Banten and West Java provinces, with 65 and 60 cases respectively. Cases have also been confirmed in East Java, Central Java, East Kalimantan, Bali, Yogyakarta, West Kalimantan and Jambi provinces.

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