By Ivy Chai
KUCHING — The Archbishop of Kuching Archdiocese Simon Poh, in his 5 April Palm Sunday homily, called on everyone to heed the directive of the government to “stay at home”.
Although it gave him “joy” to preside over all three Masses celebrated in English, Mandarin and Bahasa Malaysia, it “broke my heart” he said, on seeing the “rows and rows of empty pews”. The Masses were telecast live from St Joseph’s Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Archdiocese.
Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week, the most sacred liturgical period of the Christian calendar. This is the time when the faithful throng churches throughout the world to re-enact the final days of Christ, beginning with his Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his Last Supper, his Crucifixion on the Cross, and waiting for his Resurrection at the Easter Vigil.
Archbishop Simon said, “For the first time in our experience, I realised that Holy Week will be celebrated without congregation in many empty Church buildings. Many of our Christians really long to be in Church to worship during this most Holy Week.
“I was greatly encouraged to remember that all the parishioners are the living stones being built into a spiritual house – the Church (cf 1 Pet 2:5). We ARE the Church – disciples of the Lord in Communion for Mission! It is not the building but when we are all joined as one heart and spirit, we are united as one Christian community of faith. Indeed, we ARE the Church.”
He suggested every family put a palm leaf outside their door or window to signify Palm Sunday, since the customary tradition to bless palms will not be possible this year.
“As families united in communion as one body of Christ, the Church, from our respective homes, let us make this Holy Week a whole week of Prayer as we seek God’s intervention on the COVID-19 pandemic and especially mercy and healing for our tanah air Sarawak, our nation Malaysia and for all countries throughout the world,” he continued.
In such challenging times, Archbishop Simon had also felt the burden of having to make the decision to adhere to the government’s MCO directive to close all churches, especially for Holy Week. This contributed to a “great spiritual vacuum as well as a financial sacrifice that Christians in Sarawak and throughout Malaysia have made for the common good of our Nation Malaysia and especially in Sarawak which is predominantly Christian,” he said, referring to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the Church is not supported by the State Government, closing the churches also meant the Church coffers as well as that of the Catholic Welfare Services that runs Home of Peace at Jalan Landeh for the homeless, and St Vincent de Paul Society that provides monthly help to poor deserving families, will be in financial deficit without the donations from Church goers during the 40-days of Lent.
Archbishop Simon laments the financial burden the MCO will have on many people, especially on daily paid breadwinners, and those out of jobs as a result of the MCO. Smaller rural parishes will feel the brunt of this financial deficit more than others.
As such, he is appealing to all who are in a position to alleviate the financial crunch of the Church to donate through the Sarawak Pay app for online Mass donations, or direct transfer to the Archdiocesan account. This will then be channeled to deserving parishes and organisations run by the Church.
You can download a copy of Archbishop’s Holy Week Pastoral letter, Holy Week live telecast Mass schedule, and Sarawak Pay barcode for Online Mass Donations. (Click here)
Stay home. Stay safe. Stay at home and pray.