Preparations underway for reopening of churches

Simon Poh

KUCHING: Over the next few days, admission standard operating procedures (SOPs) and sanitising teams will be formed in preparation for the reopening of churches for the first Sunday of Lent, with Sunset and Sunday Masses on Feb 20 and 21 respectively. 

“Respective parishes will arrange for the reopening of main parish church and kampung (village) churches this weekend or on the following weekend.

“Please follow the decision and directive of the respective Parish Rector for updated information on reopening,” said Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuching, Most Reverend Simon Poh in a statement.

He said churches in villages or areas with active Covid-19 clusters are not permitted to open as church gatherings in such situations would create further potential infections in these areas.

“Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation. So there is neither obligation to attend Mass nor receive ashes,” he said, adding that the church required that all Catholics, aged between 14 and 60, observe Ash Wednesday as a day of fasting and abstinence.

He said Catholic churches would also not be reopening for Ash Wednesday. He said Holy Mass would be live-streamed at 9am from St Joseph’s Cathedral here.

“You may use the home prayer for Ash Wednesday prepared by Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, Diocese of Penang, and a Miri Parish within the family household. Different households or families are not to gather to observe Ash Wednesday.”

He also expressed his gratitude for the newly issued SOPs from the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) which allows masses in churches in green and yellow zones for a maximum of 100 persons, taking into consideration the size of the church building.

At the same time, Poh, who is also chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak, reminded that the conditional movement control order (CMCO) is still in place and many Covid-19 clusters are still active.

“Though churches have been given permission to reopen, I exhort all Catholics in cities, towns and kampung to do our social Christian responsibility to contain Covid-19 by adhering to the SOPs and minimising points of contacts in our social circles.”

He called upon Catholic church prayer leaders and village chapel committee chairpersons in around 300 Catholic villages to monitor and ensure SOP compliance during wake prayers and burial rites.

He added that as Kuching had turned orange, all churches in the district will not be opened as per Unifor’s SOPs.