By Ivy Chai
KUCHING — The Unit for Other Religions (UNIFOR) has released the SOP for Christmas Church services that is seen to be on the same page as the National Security Council (MKN), and the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).
Churches can celebrate Christmas Eve (Vigil) Mass between 6.00 pm – 10.00 pm on 24 December, and Christmas Day Mass from 7.00 am – 1.00 pm on 25 December.
In view of the new SOP for Christmas for Catholics, Archbishop Simon Poh from the Archdiocese of Kuching, announced the cancellation of all Masses scheduled to be celebrated after 1.00 pm on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve Masses have been rescheduled to finish before 10 pm.
“We are coordinating with our Churches around Kuching City that have only one Mass on Christmas morning to schedule in additional Mass services in English, Chinese and Bahasa Malaysia.
“This has enabled all our Catholic Churches in Kuching to work together with the common aim of making available, places for our Catholics to come to worship in any Church on Christmas Day. We would like to ensure that safety SOP will be followed so that our Churches are safe for worship on Christmas Day,” Archbishop Simon said.
He advised parishioners who had pre-registered for the cancelled Masses to visit their church website to register again when Mass slots are open for registration.
The SOP for social distancing means reduced capacity for parishioners to attend the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Services in Church, forcing the majority to attend Mass online.
“With the anticipation of more than 30,000 viewers who will log in on-line, I would like to assure our Catholics that we will continue to make available the Vigil Mass and Christmas morning Masses via live – streaming. Do check the latest schedule available from the Archdiocese of Kuching website or Facebook page,” he said.
Archbishop Simon explained that the UNIFOR guidelines follow the SOP for festivals of the major religions and cultures in Malaysia. Celebrations such as Deepavali, Gawai, Vesak et cetera, also conform to the restriction of hours for visiting houses of worship from 7.00 am – 1.00 pm, to minimise points of contact and exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
“In this time of COVID-19 pandemic that has affected us, I pray that this Christmas will bring hope, joy and peace and build solidarity and cooperation among all people of good will as we work together to alleviate poverty and suffering,” the Archbishop continued.
He advised all Catholics to confine Christmas day visits to less than 20 close family members, and to keep strictly to the maintenance of good hygiene. Unnecessary trips outside the house should be discouraged.
Archbishop Simon Poh informed that the annual Archbishop’s Christmas Open House this year has been cancelled, and sends greetings of a Christmas filled with Joy, Peace and Hope to all Christians.