Kuala Lumpur (Agenzia Fides) - After a lockdown in force since mid-March, given the ascertained spread of coronavirus in all states of the Malaysian Federation, the Malaysian government has decreed the possibility of reopening places of worship from 10 June, including Christian churches, verifying compliance with precautionary procedures to contain the Covid-19 infection. In order to reopen, an ad hoc authorization is required, issued on a case by case basis, after the examination of the local situation.
In the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, the Ministry of National Unity has made it possible to open three churches (St. John Vianney; Our Lady of Mount Carmel; the Church of the Mission) as from 10 June. The Archdiocese presented a list of other churches to the Ministry, asking for their reopening, but the application was rejected for technical reasons. Churches must study the requirements established by the authorities and priests must guarantee the possibility of adhering and enforcing the pre-established precautionary measures, as a condition for reopening.
"We will reopen in a measured and cautious way, with the gradual resumption of Masses, of other sacraments, of pastoral and charitable activities", said to Fides Patricia Pereira, at the head of communications in the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur. "We hope that, over time and with the gradual improvement of the health situation, some of the restrictions will be eased, maintaining the essential public health measures of social distancing, to allow more faithful to return to their respective churches for worship", she observes .
Since the approval of the reopening concerns, for now, only a few churches, Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim, at the head of the Kuala Lumpur community, confirmed the dispensation to attend Sunday mass, encouraging the faithful to continue following the liturgies live online or on TV, thanks to the mass media service offered by the archdiocese. Archbishop Kim reminded everyone: "As Malaysian citizens, we must be united to overcome this pandemic. Individual security is important for everyone's safety", inviting the faithful to responsibility and the common good.
Elsewhere, Bishop Anthony Bernard Paul, at the head of the diocese of Melaka-Johor, for prudence reasons has decided not to open churches for public worship, although the government has authorized it as from June 10. "After weighing the standard operating procedures of the Ministry of Health and the position of the Council of the Churches of Malaysia and the Catholic Bishops of the peninsula, I have decided not to open the churches until the order to control movements for the entire population is revoked", says Bishop Paul in a pastoral letter addressed to all parish priests, religious, associations and movements.
According to the Bishop, "the threat of Covid-19 is not over. Strict controls by the health authorities will follow. The risks are still there. The response of the parishes must be adequate. "Given the uncertainty still present, the churches in the dioceses will not reopen and pastoral activities will be reduced to a minimum.
In an uncomfortable situation, however, the population should not be left alone. The Bishop says to Catholic parish priests and leaders: "Contact people, inform them, advise them on how to keep faith and make your closeness felt". (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 8/6/2020)