KUALA LUMPUR — “Stay safe and be holy”: is the exhortation that Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim, at the head of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, addressed to the faithful while Malaysia is gradually easing the lockdown of gatherings and religious assemblies, imposed because of Covid-19.
In a pastoral letter sent to Fides, the Archbishop states: “We are grateful to Almighty God for the blessings received: we have seen a significant drop in the number of new Covid-19 cases and zero mortality. But we are reminded by the authorities public health services that we are not entirely out of the emergency and must continue to be prudent, while placing our faith and trust in God”.
Archbishop Kim asks the faithful to “be patient while the Church takes a gradual approach to allow everyone to return to church safely, to avoid a new wave of this pandemic and to protect the most vulnerable members”.
As of July 15, the government announced that “there will no longer be a limit to the number of people who can attend a conference, social gathering or prayers in mosques or places of worship”. However, in light of the government health care protocols, such as social distancing, only a third of the capacity to welcome people to church is allowed. Different parishes have issued guidelines for attending Sunday mass, with different registration and booking methods, which vary from parish to parish.
In the letter, Archbishop Kim encouraged parishes to contact as many Catholics as possible, willing to attend weekly masses.
“I understand that due to the only mass allowed on each Sunday, due to the limited capacity of seats and the restrictions imposed by the authority, many will not be able to attend mass weekly. But those who are unable to attend Sunday mass are exempt from the obligation, or will be able to continue to use the mass media.”
According to government indications, the elderly and children are encouraged not to participate in gatherings in places of worship: it is a public health warning and not an absolute ban. Baptisms of children can be celebrated in church according to the Archdiocese guidelines, but must take place outside the celebration of mass, and only with one child at a time, and his/her family.
The Archbishop also asked the parish priests to contact the “extraordinary ministers of Communion” to distribute Holy Communion in the houses, to those who cannot personally come to mass. Sunday catechism schools are suspended until further notice.
“All the parishes of the archdiocese are working to make our churches and chapels again centers of spiritual, pastoral and sacramental life, but we want to do it safely and prudently,” concludes the Prelate. (SD-PA)