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Covid-19: Catholic Church in Singapore reverses earlier decision to resume Masses

SINGAPORE — A week after announcing that it would be resuming Masses starting Saturday (March 14), the Catholic Church in Singapore has gone back on its decision, saying it is not helping the Covid-19 situation if Masses continue.

Covid-19: Catholic Church in Singapore reverses earlier decision to resume Masses

A Mass held at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd near Bras Basah Road.

SINGAPORE — A week after announcing that it would be resuming Masses starting Saturday (March 14), the Catholic Church in Singapore has gone back on its decision, saying it is not helping the Covid-19 situation if Masses continue.

Archbishop William Goh, the head of the Catholic Church here, said in a statement on Thursday: “The situation has become so serious that the World Health Organization has just declared Covid-19 a pandemic.

“The worsening regional threat and recent big cluster arising from Safra Jurong have caused much anxiety among the community at large… There is a rising number of infections.

“Hence, to protect the larger population, I have decided to rescind the order to resume Masses until the situation is much improved and more stabilised.” 

The Catholic Church had first announced on Feb 14 that it would be suspending all Masses indefinitely. On March 5, it announced that Masses would be set to resume on March 14, when all its 32 churches around the island have put in place the necessary precautionary measures. 

Archbishop Goh clarified that the announcement to resume Masses was made in “the context of a stabilised situation”. 

“I know many of you who desire to participate in the Mass and receive the Eucharist will be greatly disappointed,” he said, adding that churchgoers have been split on whether Masses should resume. 

After “weighing all the views and bringing them to prayer”, he discerned that the Church should not proceed at this point in time.   

The Catholic Medical Guild — which is a community of Catholic doctors and healthcare professionals — will consult with the Government and will do the necessary reviews, and will make its recommendations to him when it is time to resume Masses, the archbishop said. 

“I know it is a decision that will not please all, but as the head of the Catholic Church in Singapore, I have to decide for the common good.

“Should anything untoward happen, it would be too late to regret. We should not insist on having the Eucharist at the expense of the safety of the larger community.” 

The Eucharist, which means thanksgiving in Greek, is the consecrated bread that Catholics believe is the body of Jesus Christ, which they partake at Masses. It also refers to the celebration of Masses in general, which is the chief and central form of communal worship and thanksgiving among Catholics.

Masses are usually held twice daily on weekdays in Singapore but see the most attendance on the weekends when there are at least four to five sessions.

During the time of suspension, most churches have remained open for parishioners to have individual or private prayers, and online Masses have been put up on the YouTube channel of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore.

On Thursday, the Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lumpur and the bishops of Penang and Malacca-Johore in Malaysia also announced that they are suspending all Masses in their areas.

WHAT CATHOLICS THINK OF THE DECISION 

Catholics here approached by TODAY understood and supported the decision to continue suspending Masses, although some were saddened that they would not be able to return to church this weekend. 

Mr Raymond Francis, 50, a communications specialist, said: “I’m disappointed about the decision to not resume Masses. I was looking forward to going back to church. It is the key part of how I practise my faith. But I fully understand why the Masses had to be suspended and support what the archbishop is doing.”

Mr Alan John, 66, a media consultant, said that besides the dangers of congregating in a large crowd as Catholics do during weekend Masses, those “most likely to want to go back are older people and people who have various ailments, who are precisely the group most at risk”. 

“I am an older person with underlying health issues, and I’m thinking, ‘Why am I going back?’” Mr John said. “When they decided to resume Masses, things looked like they were improving. Now, it does not look like things are getting better.” 

Agreeing, Ms Christine Lim, 59, who is self-employed, said that she was concerned about the timing when the announcement to resume Masses was made, given that the Safra Jurong cluster was beginning to grow. 

“I already expected (that the Church will not proceed with Masses as announced), and I think it is the right thing to do given the current situation we are facing,” she said.

One 23-year-old Catholic, university student Joseph Fernandez, however, is upset that he has to wait longer yet for Masses to resume, but he ultimately understands why the archbishop made the call.

To make up for his time away from church, Mr Fernandez gathers in smaller meetings of about 10 people, and watches the livestream of the Mass on YouTube or Facebook on Sundays with his family. `

“At the Catholic Mass, Jesus is made present with the consecrated bread and wine. It’s just a different environment (from an online broadcast),” he said.

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Covid-19 coronavirus Catholic Church

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