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Hong Kong churches hold Sunday masses again after 4-month break

08 June 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Everyone must wear a mask during the service, and to keep distance from the next person
June 7 marked the first Sunday when public masses were again held in Catholic churches across Hong Kong, after being halted for nearly four months due to the coronavirus outbreak.

But weekday masses started six days earlier, after the Catholic Diocese outfitted churches to comply with the government’s social distancing measures.
The new rules include limiting the number of people inside a church at no more than 50% of its normal capacity, and worshippers are to put on face masks and cleanse their hands with sanitizer.

In addition, seats are kept at least a meter apart, no hymnals or mass booklets are distributed or left on the pews, seats are cleansed and disinfected after each mass, the host during communion is received only by hand, and the sign of peace is expressed by bowing heads, instead of kissing or shaking hands.

The ubiquitous hand sanitizer which worshippers are asked to use before and after taking communion

In his video-recorded message on May 22 to announce the resumption of public masses, Catholic Cardinal John Tong said that those who fear contracting the virus may continue attending online masses during which they can receive “spiritual Communion.”

Alternatively, they can attend mass on a weekday in lieu of Sunday, given the limited number of seats inside churches as part of the anti-Covid measures.
Cardinal Tong said he decided on the measures that needed to be taken after consulting with medical professionals.

The holding of public masses or services was suspended by most churches in Hong Kong since Feb. 15 on the advice of the government, as the coronavirus contagion in China became more severe.
Schools were also closed at the same time, while civil servants doing non-emergency work were told to work from home.

The churches were supposed to stop holding public masses for only two weeks, but as the coronavirus began spreading in Hong Kong and in many other parts of the world, the suspension was extended indefinitely.
Churches remained open during set hours, however, but only for private prayers and meditation.

In place of public masses, churches started holding live broadcasts of their daily services through the internet.
One of the priests whose daily masses were livestreamed through the internet was Fr. Jay Flandez, chaplain of Filipinos, who was assisted by the El Shaddai group and some seminarians during the service.

Sunday masses at the Cathedral in Mid-Levels were also made available online.

The online options got wider when most big churches in the Philippines also began airing their masses via the internet, after they were forced to shut amid the rising number of Covid-19 infections in the country.
Only three people are allowed to seat in each pew

Despite many people in Hong Kong saying they missed going to an actual mass instead of “attending” one online, many of the seats in church today were empty.

It may be because of the heavy rain that poured throughout the day, but it could also be because people had gotten used to hearing mass on demand, in the comfort of their homes.

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