On the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary (8 September), the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur released a Chancery Notice with the latest updates pertaining to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for our Churches and various sectors of the Archdiocese, following the Prime Minister’s announcement with regards to the further extension of the Recovery Movement Control Order (“RMCO”) on 28 August 2020. A few adaptions have been added to the existing guidelines for the celebration of Sacraments, as well as other parish activities. I would like to highlight a few important SOPs and explain where we are headed, during this RMCO.
1. AGE RESTRICTIONS AND PERSONS UNDER HIGH-RISK CATEGORIES
Under the Post COVID-19 (RMCO) guidelines issued by the National Security Council (“NSC”) for Non-Muslims places of worship dated 4 September 2020, those suffering from chronic diseases, senior citizens and children aged 12 years and below, are not encouraged to attend Public gatherings or Masses. However, we have eased on some of the restrictions to allow senior citizens, children aged 12 years and below to attend mass in church since 5 September 2020. Last weekend (5-6 September) we received quite a number of duly completed declaration forms for the said categories of persons, endorsed by family members, caregivers or physicians.
2. NON-MALAYSIAN CITIZENS
Based on the latest SOP, the NSC now allows Non-Malaysian citizens to attend Mass and other religious activities. Even though the SOP has granted permission, we are only allowing foreigners and expatriates whom we are familiar with, to attend Mass in our Church. We have quite a large number of citizens from Myanmar in our Parish but we have not given them permission to attend Weekend Masses just yet. However, we will reopen our Church to them in October, enabling them to celebrate the Eucharist, Baptisms and Weddings.
3. FUNERALS AND WEDDINGS
The Archdiocese has lifted the restriction on the number of attendees at funeral masses / services in the church, provided that they strictly adhere to the relevant safety measures. We request that family members register their names before attending the funeral Mass/service.
The NSC still wants us to strictly adhere to the SOP with regards to wedding ceremonies, whereby only a maximum of 20 people (including the priest and other ministers) are allowed to be present. Although many are still puzzled and unhappy with this restriction, we hope couples and their families really understand the situation.
4. DISTRIBUTION OF HOLY COMMUNION OUTSIDE MASS.
We have encouraged our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMOHC) to start distributing Holy Communion to the homebound. We advise each EMOHC to continue his/her duty, bringing Holy Communion only to one or two elderly and sick every fortnight. During these past weeks, we have appointed a few heads-of-families to bring Holy Communion to their elderly and sick family members at home, as an added precautionary measure.
5. CATECHISM CLASS, RCIA, FORMATIONS AND MEETINGS.
We plan to restart our Catechism classes this October, and we will end the Catechetical Year 2020 in the first half of December. BEC meetings too have been suspended for more than 6 months, but we will resume our in-person monthly reflection meetings from October onwards. We will meet and plan certain activities in our Parish, gradually. The Parish Response Team (PRT) will provide updates on a few more details with regards to the SOP so that every parishioner will be able to participate in the celebration of the Sacraments and other Parish activities.
I am proud of our PRT members and Parishioners for their cooperation and commitment in adhering to the government’s and Church’s SOPs. During this COVID-19 crisis, we have recognised and observed a new norm in the way of life in the Church, thus far. The Holy Father, Pope Francis said, “we can heal the world, if we all work together for the common good.”
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy