The Church must learn how to live and function with this virus

Firstly, we thank God for leading us through this unprecedented time of trouble. We thank Him for the leadership of His Grace, Archbishop Julian Leow,

May 31, 2020

Dear Editor,
Firstly, we thank God for leading us through this unprecedented time of trouble. We thank Him for the leadership of His Grace, Archbishop Julian Leow, for his firm and assured leadership during this crisis. It’s with pride that we can say that the Catholic Church was one of the the first to adhere to the MCO directives from the government. As a Church we complied, for the safety and well being of all and our neighbours. Safe to say, this Easter will be remembered for a long time. Never before and with God’s grace, never again.

This letter comes from us after a time of reflection on the lockdown that has followed on the heels of the Coronavirus to this point where we are in a slightly relaxed regime as opposed to the MCO. We take note that during the MCO, worship essentially ground to a halt. Never did we think for  a moment that churches would be sealed and the loss of the Mass be felt greatly.

We rejoiced when it seemed like there was light at the end of the tunnel as the authorities moved into CMCO but seemed to backtrack with extensions until 9th June 2020. However, what is really disturbing is the seeming overreach of the civil authorities in setting the SOP for faiths to operate post CMCO.

The SOP governs the number of people in attendance, restricts age of attendees, restricts the days of operation among others. How can we make sense of this in light of our obligations to the Mass, especially in terms of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Confession?

The Church should not be denied its Sacraments. The faithful are waiting fervently for all the seven Sacraments entrusted to it. We must have access to it without further delay and move  on with our lives and live. RCIA Catechumens await their Sacraments. Couples wanting to get married await their Sacrament. Confirmation classes await their Sacraments. All want to receive it and continue with their lives. The Church as a whole is responsible to all these groups.

COVID-19 is not going to disappear in the blink of an eye and the infection and death count is not going to be zeroised overnight. By fair estimates, it will take at least 1-2 years before a viable vaccine is developed. On the same note, it’s been 14 days (the normal virus infection cycle) since CMCO has been in place in many parts of Malaysia. Infections did not shoot up despite the many estimates and predications based on what happened in other countries. Let’s take heed from that.

Meanwhile, the Church at large must learn how to live and function regardless. As a Church, we  must awaken from this slumber and find creative ways to congregate and celebrate. Live telecast Mass was the bridge during the most testing of times. Let’s question ourselves in all honesty if it’s still the way we want to celebrate Mass. By design, most churches can accommodate more than the 30 limit. We can, with creative thinking and leadership, safely congregate in larger numbers. We need to go back to the authorities and challenge them on their decision making.

The Church is not uninformed when it comes to handling crises of great magnitude. She has endured, flourished through various and oft times multiple crises that occur simultaneously, wars, heresies, plagues, scandals.

Bishop Cornelius Sim of Brunei recently meditated on asking for the gift of ‘Fear’. The fear of losing sight of our God and Saviour. We have to ask ourselves, are we,  as a Church, becoming complacent and comfortable with these telecasts or are we really fearful of the infection. While congregating to celebrate Mass will never be irrelevant, I am afraid for the congregation and their fortitude. From some of the responses I have seen, I fear many are in their comfort zones. We need to check ourselves as a Church.

The Church cannot continue to exist virtually and subsist Sacramentally for indefinite period of time.

Anthony Alan Lukose,
parishioner of the Church of the Holy Family,
Kajang)

Keith Dunstan Pereira,
parishioner of the Church of the Divine Mercy, Shah Alam)

Richard Khoo, parishioner of the Church of St Ignatius, PJ)

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Andrew1digiexcel@gmail.com
Faith begins in the home, and practiced through day to day living. There is no need to fear losing sight of God just because churches are closed. Church and faith are two separate matters. This pandemic will pass. There were pandemics throughout history, and this will not be the last. People should have access to spiritual food, so that they can sustain themselves during this period. Spiritual food is not just rituals. This is the void which church authorities need to fill.