Crisis management center recommends churches open for Holy Week

A vacant church is seen in this photo, during COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings in places of worship (Photo: JNews)
AMMAN — A letter issued by the National Centre for Security and Crisis Management (NCSCM) titled “exceptions regarding Christian praying during Easter celebration” was recently circulated on social media, drawing criticism. اضافة اعلان

The letter, dated April 15, suggested that churches should open during lockdown to enable Christians to attend the Holy Week and Easter masses “on foot”, and limited the church mass time to 20 minutes.

Azmi Shahien, a churchgoer, is one of the many who objected to the limitation of prayer times. He explained that Easter is the most important Christian festival, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that it should be celebrated with joy and without limitations. 

“Easter is not something that can be canceled or postponed or even limited to 20 minutes,” Shahien said. 

Yosef Kandah, a parishioner, hoped that the NCSCM’s recommendation will not be translated into a governmental decision, though he respects and abides by all of the social distancing decisions. Kandah believes that the controversial 20-minute restriction was simply a misunderstanding, hoping for more clarifications from officials. “Most importantly, I hope that all restrictions are made easier during Easter prayers,” he said.

Father Rifat Bader, a Catholic priest and director general of the Jordan-based Catholic Center for Studies & Media, told Jordan News that Easter is one of the most important days for Christians, celebrated with special church services, “which makes it impossible to limit the mass celebration to 20 minutes”.

“Because of Easter’s importance, the church request was not to limit the prayers to 20 minutes but to give an extra 20 minutes to the time after the lockdown to enable the faithful to reach their homes after the church ceremonies are over,” he explained.

He added that, currently, many churches are considering rescheduling the time mass is held during Easter, to start at 4pm instead of 7pm, in order to give the faithful the chance to reach home before the lockdown in the evening. 

As for the NCSCM statement requesting Christian to attend church “on foot,” Bader said it is illogical since churches are only located in certain areas of the capital, which necessitates churchgoers’ use of cars.

Omar Naber, an MP who holds Amman’s 3rd District Christian seat, said that the NCSCM recommendation and advice is important to limit the spread of the pandemic. However, he said that it did not take into consideration the importance of the Sundays of Easter, especially Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, demanding that such recommendations be reviewed further before they are implemented as a government decision. 

“The lack of church availability in every neighborhood along with the geographical distribution of the churches makes it impossible for the faithful to attend the masses on foot,” he said, echoing Bader. “The other issue — more of a concern actually — is the need to have the churches open during Good Friday, allowing the faithful to attend the prayer that is solemn to all Christians.”

There are recommendations to extend the church mass during Easter celebrations so that it will not be less than one hour, official sources who requested anonymity said.

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