Hengky Ola Sura, Maumere, East Nusa Tenggara – A celebration of Holy Week, popularly known as Semana Santa, in the town of Larantuka in East Flores, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Larantuka bishop Mgr. Fransiskus Kopong Kung decided to cancel the series of prayers and the procession in a meeting attended by the priests of Larantuka and the Semana Santa committee on Saturday.
"We preserve tradition but we also nurture life and humanity. Protecting lives is a manifestation of faith," the bishop said, saying that in order to protect lives, people had to support the government's call for residents to stay at home and, therefore, the 2020 Semana Santa should be canceled.
The Semana Santa is Larantuka's unique blend of Portuguese ritual with local tradition, which originated from the 16th century. This year, the Semana Santa was planned to take place in April, during which thousands of Catholic pilgrims from around Indonesia would have gone to join the commemoration.
Previously, East Flores Governor Antonius Gege Hadjon had made a statement annulling the Bale Nagi movement, preventing the East Flores diaspora living outside the NTT province from returning to see the Semana Santa, according to the letter obtained by The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
The letter limited people's mobility from and to the East Flores regency.
The NTT provincial government has canceled the use of two boats that were to be used free of charge by people in the sea procession of Semana Santa.
NTT secretary Benediktus Polo Maing asked the priests on Tuesday to inform Catholic people about the cancellation of the boats in the Semana Santa events. (aly)