Archbishop Poh advocates caution in reopening places of worship

The Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) supports the Unit For Other Religions’ (UNIFOR) recent decision to continue suspending all church activities until the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) ends on June 9.

May 24, 2020

KUCHING: The Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) supports the Unit For Other Religions’ (UNIFOR) recent decision to continue suspending all church activities until the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) ends on June 9.

Chairman of ACS Archbishop Simon Poh said they had in fact suspended their Sunday services from March 15 before the first phase of the MCO was enforced on March 18.

“As Christians in Sarawak, we have been supporting our state to contain COVID-19. We have come to realise the importance of social distancing to stop any new cluster,” he said in a statement to The Borneo Post’s sister paper Utusan Borneo May 15. He said UNIFOR director Richard Lon had issued permission to ACS to live stream Sunday services with every phase of the MCO and CMCO, which had greatly assisted the ACS in obtaining police permit.

Since May 12, in line with Federal Laws, the government has allowed the opening of certain  sectors of business and offices. Similarly, Sarawak UNIFOR has also issued permissions for Church offices throughout Sarawak to be opened. However, he added that Catholic Churches and many other churches are proceeding cautiously and slowly.”

He disclosed that although staff in parish offices have returned to work, they remain operating behind closed doors, undergoing training to deal with the eventual opening to the public. All necessary precautionary measures must be put in place.

Even when churches are allowed  to open, he said churchgoers would need to adhere to social distancing and other safety precautions, leading to reduced seating capacity and the need for more services.

“When churches are allowed to re-open, I would like to encourage the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions to stay safe at home and continue worshipping via live streaming.

“Parents would also be discouraged from bringing their children to church as it would be difficult for them to keep social distancing and to refrain from touching their faces and things around them,” he added.

Archbishop Poh stressed that it would be prudent to re-start slowly to ensure there would not be a second wave.

“It is this sacrifice made by people of all religions together that will eventually ensure that our society and especially our churches will be safe for worship in the near future,” he added.

“All should also be kind and considerate, and extend help to those in need during this pandemic. Above all pray, keep faith and trust in God,” he added.--Borneo Post

Total Comments:1

Dear Archbishop Simon Poh, Last year a friend sent me a video of two (cultural) lions on the sanctuary of a church, possibly the Cathedral in Kuching at the beginning of HOLY Mass. I watched it with much regret and sorrow. The presiding priest (or was it you, Archbishop?) spent about ten minutes or more with each lion (possibly blessing them) and then the lions left the sanctuary supported with applause from the congregation who witnessed a "performance" as they would in a shopping mall or a circus. Is this what Christ wants? Archbishop, pagan practices under the guise of "inculturation" are absolutely WRONG and an abomination to our faith, the Blessed Sacrament, and HOLY Mass. It is a very popular event, yes, but it is wrong. Many churches around Malaysia conducted similar pagan rites/practices, including ancestral worship rites, cutting of roasted pigs with cleavers (Penang), and other cultural gestures (Indian Ponggal rice, in connection with the Hindu harvest festival, etc) -- all totally unnecessary. They detract us from the central call of our Holy Church towards the Blessed Sacrament. Yes, these cultural practices make the presiding priest/clergy popular with the faithful-at-large. The faithful are innocent in understanding the Truth about the rubrics and divine culture of our most dignified and sacred conduct of the Catholic Mass. The clergy must remember to "let Christ increase" not any other person/s or events. Archbishop, none of the above-mentioned practices bring us closer to our Lord but they can hoodwink the faithful as if they do. These are just entertaining events but a huge distraction. Lion dances and related cultural practices are wonderful reasons for social gatherings. However, we DO NOT NEED them in or around the Catholic Church and our faith in Jesus and his teachings. Cultural events like these are already practised very nicely in our Malaysian society in many organizations and private homes -- they fit perfectly there, not in our Catholic Churches. Archbishop, CoViD19 is a "perfect storm" to help our Catholic Church too to wake up to our many wrongdoings, including the adoption of unnecessary pagan cultural practices, clapping and adulation of human achievements. You will certainly agree with me, Archbishop, that the Holy Mass we now have via electronic means depicts exactly what the HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS is all about. No unnecessary pagan rites or cultural practices, short sermons, and a SOLEMN celebration of MASS. We now await the full lifting of the Movement Control Order when we can all attend Mass in person and receive the Blessed Eucharist in its true form and celebrate Mass with the solemnity it rightfully deserves. Archbishop, the words, SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS spells clearly what our faith is about. The Word of God and the Blessed Eucharist are the most powerful Divine instruments to draw the faithful to Christ Jesus. Nothing must be done or adopted which "suppresses" the "source and summit" of Christian life: the Blessed Eucharist. God bless you Archbishop.