Peninsular Catholic churches suspend Mass amid Putrajaya’s call to avoid mass gatherings

Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Julian Leow (pic) together with Penang and Melaka-Johor Bishops Sebastian Francis and Bernard Paul said Catholics here are exempted from their Sunday worship. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Julian Leow (pic) together with Penang and Melaka-Johor Bishops Sebastian Francis and Bernard Paul said Catholics here are exempted from their Sunday worship. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, March 12 — Catholic churches in Peninsular Malaysia have temporarily suspended all weekend and weekday public masses from two weeks starting from March 14 to March 29 in light of the escalating Covid-19 pandemic and Health Ministry’s recommendations against public gatherings.

In a joint press statement today, Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Julian Leow together with Penang and Melaka-Johor Bishops Sebastian Francis and Bernard Paul said Catholics here are exempted from their Sunday worship.

“All weekend and weekday public masses will be suspended from March 14 (or March 13, if the state’s weekend begins on Friday) to March 29, 2020. This coincides with the public-school holidays.

“We therefore exempt all Catholics from fulfilling their Sunday obligation of assisting or attending Mass during this period. This exemption is a temporary measure in the face of the current crisis,” said the statement.

However, the Archdiocesan Social Communication Ministry of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur is making arrangements to broadcast Masses over the weekends in the various major languages and weekday Masses in English.

Mass is the most important worship service of Catholicism, incorporating among others the Bible, hymns, symbols, and directions on how to live a Catholic life.

The three bishops acknowledged that a broadcasted Mass is not a substitute for the obligation to attend and assist during Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, but with its public suspension, the televised format could serve as a form of spiritual “devotion” among others.

At the same time, they also instructed Catholic priests to continue offering Masses in private and provide solace during the present crisis.

Other church activities that have been temporarily suspended include catechism class, programmes and activities. Meetings, gatherings, formations, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults sessions, fellowships and events in church or in the Basic Ecclesial Communities have been cancelled.

Weddings and funerals will only be conducted privately with guests being limited to the deceased’s family and close friends.

The statement also advised those homebound to contact their local parish offices to arrange an appointment for the local priest for confession, anointing the sick, as well as Holy Communion and advised its priesthood to take necessary health precautions in administering the Sacraments.

“We also declare that the 19th of March 2020, Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, protector of the Church, be designated as a day of prayer and fasting to invoke Saint Joseph’s intercession and God’s intervention for an end to this crisis,” said their statement.

Earlier today, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba urged Malaysians to postpone or limit any form of mass gatherings, and urged those who were symptomatic to practise social distancing near large crowds and if necessary, avoid venturing to public places in a bid to control the spread of the disease.

Putrajaya said today there is currently no need yet to restrict Friday prayers at mosques for Muslims, but minister in charge of religious affairs Datuk Seri Zukifli Mohamad said this policy may be reviewed if health authorities decide that the coronavirus situation in the country can no longer be contained.

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