By Ivy Chai
KUCHING — At the dawn of the Easter Vigil, Archbishop Simon Poh of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kuching had time to reflect on the Holy Week which commenced on Palm Sunday.
In a press release he said, “Throughout these three Holy days – called Triduum – whenever I looked around me in the large St Joseph’s Cathedral in Kuching that is normally packed with over 1000 worshipers, I saw only rows and rows of empty pews. For the first time in our experience, our Holy Week was celebrated without congregation in many empty Church buildings. It broke my heart to realise that many of our Christians really longed to be in Church to worship during this most Holy Week.”
As Chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak, he had earlier requested that all Christian and Catholic families throughout Sarawak commit to a week of prayer during the Holy Week, commencing from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. They are to seek God’s divine intervention for the COVID-19 pandemic, asking especially for mercy and healing for Sarawak, our nation Malaysia and for all countries throughout the world.
He said Good Friday was a time to “put our faith in our Lord Jesus whose death taught us to forgive enemies and to love our neighbours. As Christians we are not to allow the same prejudice and anger against another person. We are not to stigmatise those who have contracted COVID-19. With their families, they too are victims of COVID-19.”
He added that the COVID-19 virus infects all human persons, irrespective of race, religion or social status. “On this Good Friday, let us not add on another ‘virus’ of prejudice, fear, hatred and violence in our hearts, to each of us who are already suffering. Instead of sowing seeds of hatred and anger, let us pray, offer life, hope and words of comfort and encouragement to families and the people around us.”
According to the Archbishop, Pope Francis has added a special Intercession for the COVID-19 pandemic. This translates to 1.2 billion Catholics throughout the world, praying in communion, the same 11 intercessions on Good Friday wherever they are. This is the Universality of our Catholic Faith.
At the Easter Vigil Mass which he presided at the St Joseph’s Cathedral and telecast live, Archbishop Simon said, “My heart goes out to over thousands of adult Catechumens who are preparing for baptism in the Catholic Churches throughout Sarawak. Easter Vigil night is the night they would have been baptised, confirmed and received Jesus in Holy Communion.”
He said the Church understood their disappointments, at the same time acknowledging their strong desires. He encouraged them to remain faithful to Jesus and assured them the Church would arrange for their baptism at a later date this year.
Archbishop Simon Poh said, “On behalf of all Christians from the Association of Churches in Sarawak, together with the Catholic bishops and priests of Malaysia, I take this occasion of Easter Sunday to wish all Christians, leaders, friends and all people of good will, peace and joy of Easter season. Alleluia He is risen!”