Churches plan to be ‘extra careful’ while celebrating Christmas amid Covid-19

Published December 25, 2020
The Seventh Day Adventist Hospital is lit up for the festive season.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
The Seventh Day Adventist Hospital is lit up for the festive season.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: Christmas is a day of rejoicing, a festival to spend with family and friends, after attending mass. But the world has changed so much in the past year with so many loved ones also leaving us due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And now instead of things improving somewhat, you have the second wave and the new strain that everyone is hearing of.

Earlier, Archbishop of Karachi Joseph Cardinal Coutts had held a personal meeting with members of the clergy at the St Patrick’s Cathedral here to discuss their plan of action during Christmas. He said that in view of the permission to celebrate Christmas given by the government despite its concerns provided they follow all standard operating procedures (SOPs), the churches would also be extra careful and strict in taking all kinds of precautions.

“Since it is not advisable for little children as well as the elderly to go out and mingle as they are said to be more vulnerable to the virus, they will have the option of attending services through our channel,” said Father Aamir Bhatti, who besides serving as assistant priest at the St James parish at Korangi Crossing also runs the Catholic Christian web channel Good News.

At the St Jude’s Catholic Church in North Nazimabad, the parish priest there, Father Mario Rodrigues, said that they have big premises where there are several areas for holding mass and services and they would be holding as many as 37 services starting from Christmas Eve in order to accommodate all people while observing social distancing. “There will be services at 8pm, 10pm and 12am on Christmas Eve at the different areas at St Jude’s while making sure that the people sit at a distance from one another. Then in the morning of Christmas day, we will hold more services at 7am, 8am, 9am and 10am, again at all the different areas simultaneously,” he said. “You multiply the services with the different points on the premises they will be held at, it comes to 37 in all,” he pointed out.

‘How can we deny people their Christmas?’

“So we will be taking all precautions, no compromises there, as well as holding services,” he said.

Asked if it won’t be too hectic and worrisome, too, having so many people, Father Mario said that he has himself lost loved ones to this pandemic and he is just trying to cope the best way he can under the circumstances. “How can we deny people their Christmas, too?” he said.

Rev Fr Arthur Charles, the parish priest at the St Anthony’s Parish in Frere Town, said that they are also all geared up and well-prepared for holding Christmas mass and services while taking precautions. “No one is going to be allowed inside without a mask. Masks would also be given out free of charge at the gates. We will also have walk-though disinfectant spraying gates through which everyone must pass. Then there will also be sanitizers at various stations for the people,” he said.

For social distancing, he said that they have also divided services while adding more services, too. “We are encouraging people to attend services as the different times being offered. They will also be held simultaneously at various stations such as the inside area, the outside stage area, the passage area, etc. The English mass will also be held at the other Convent of Jesus and Mary campus nearby. Besides, we will also have a multimedia facility for people to watch the services on big screens that will be put up at these places,” he said, adding that they will be holding a separate special service in the morning for elderly folks.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2020

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