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Online services, strict health protocols mark Christmas celebrations in Indonesia

Jakarta Post - December 27, 2020

Jakarta – Christians across Indonesia celebrated a quiet Christmas amid the COVID-19 pandemic this year, with many churches limiting physical participation in Christmas services and others moving entirely online.

The Jakarta Cathedral was among those houses of worship that limited the number of congregants for Christmas mass. Only 309 people attended the Christmas Eve service on Thursday evening, equal to around 20 percent capacity.

"Only members of the cathedral's parish were allowed to attend mass," said the cathedral's spokesperson, Susyana Suwadie, on Friday, Tribunnews.com reported.

Susyana said that attendees were required to register themselves on the cathedral's website beforehand, while church officials had to be ID-checked before joining mass.

"The mass was carried out under very strict health protocols," Susyana said, noting that worshipers also had to wear face masks and maintain a safe physical distance from one another.

To accommodate churchgoers who could not attend, the cathedral also planned to carry out online masses through Saturday and Sunday.

Imanuel Church in Gambir, Central Jakarta, also took similar safety measures, allowing only 50 worshipers to attend its Christmas mass, or around 5 percent of its maximum capacity.

They also had to register themselves online ahead of time.

"We also conducted screening of attendees with the help of police officers," church official Daniel Lautongan said on Wednesday, as quoted by Kompas.com.

Immanuel Church also conducted online services that were livestreamed on its official YouTube account.

In Banten, Tangerang Police chief Sr. Comr. Ade Ari Syam said that all churches under his jurisdiction had to hold Christmas Mass in accordance with prevailing health protocols.

"We have checked [the churches] some of them even limited capacity to only 14 percent. So out of a maximum capacity of 1,500, for instance, they only allowed 200 worshipers to attend," Ade said in a written statement on Thursday.

He said the churches also implemented various measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus before and after mass, such as by offering COVID-19 rapid tests, temperature screening and providing handwashing facilities in and around the premises.

Tangerang Regent Arief Rachadiono Wismansyah previously advised churches to hold their services online and to limit in-person mass to 30 percent of a church's maximum capacity.

The head of Christ the King Cathedral parish in Banyumas, Central Java, Sulpicius Parjono, said his church also limited visitors to just 300 out of its maximum 1,000-person capacity.

"We will hold several services, three times on Christmas Eve, four times on Christmas Day, and once after Christmas. Each service is limited to 300 people," Parjono said on Wednesday.

He said only local residents were allowed to attend the masses and the church had also prepared officials to ensure worshipers follow health protocols.

"Officials check visitors' body temperatures and the attendance list, and officials direct attendees to sit in certain places," he added.

Banyumas Police chief Sr. Comr. Whisnu Caraka previously said that he would also deploy police officers to ensure worshipers followed health protocols.

"Since we're still in the middle of a pandemic, our operations will be a little different this year. Besides maintaining public order during Christmas, we will focus on monitoring the implementation of health protocols," Whisnu said.

Meanwhile, most churches along Jl. Pemuda in Depok, West Java, opted not to hold Christmas mass for fear of transmission. These include the Protestant Church of Western Indonesia (GPIB) Imanuel, the oldest church in Depok.

The Depok administration had previously advised churches to move their services online and limit their capacity of in-person attendees to only 20 people.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/12/27/online-services-strict-health-protocols-mark-christmas-celebrations-in-indonesia.htm