Jakarta – The congregation of Santa Clara church in North Bekasi, West Java, will finally be able to celebrate Christmas this year at their own church building – the first time after around two decades of holding Christmas Mass without a church.
For the last 20 years, the church's congregation has had to attend Mass at a chapel inside a shop house amid years of hardships in constructing their own church building, which was finally completed in August this year.
"Members of the congregation are very enthusiastic since previously we only celebrated Christmas at a small shop house with limited space and facilities," Santa Clara priest Raymundus Sianipar said as quoted by kompas.com."Imagine celebrating Christmas for 20 years in such a limited space," Raymundus said, "But it never lessened our Christmas spirit."
The chapel in the shop house, which only has space for around 200 people, could not accommodate the church's congregation, which comprises around 9,000 members. Therefore, during Mass, many people crowded outside the chapel and sat in chairs provided outside the shop house.
Santa Clara Church – as the only Catholic church in North Bekasi – could, however, only accommodate around 1,500 congregation members. "The church is always crowded from Monday until Sunday," Raymundus said.
To anticipate the huge number of people who wanted to attend the Christmas Eve Mass as well as the Christmas Mass, the church was set to hold masses twice a day, he added.
Santa Clara Church initially obtained its building permit in June 2015, but it has been the target of protests by hardline Muslims who opposed the church's construction due to what they claimed to be a "Christianization" attempt in the city.
Those who protested against the church had also demanded that Bekasi Mayor Rahmat Effendi revoke its building permit, but he refused to bow to the pressure and let the construction continue. (dpk)