UAE: Christian faithful observe Good Friday through online services
Churches across the country held special prayers for those affected by Covid.
With pandemic-imposed restrictions on gatherings, majority of Christian expats are marking the holy week from their houses by following online streaming of services held in churches. Prayers for a relief from the pandemic are on every lip.
Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of the Vicariate of Southern Arabia, led the service at St Joseph’s Cathedral Abu Dhabi. Parish Priest Father Johnson Kadukanmakal noted the cathedral missed its massive gathering of faithful.
“The liturgical celebrations around Holy Week, which highlight the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the centre of the Christian faith. Usually at this time of the year, tens of thousands of our Catholic faithful pass through our cathedral during the many services. This year, just like the previous year, with the challenges of the pandemic, this has changed. We are happy, however, that we could still conduct all these important celebrations in our parish with limited numbers of the faithful present, respecting the required social distancing and safety norms,” said Father Kadukanmakal.
The cathedral has more than 50 services spread over the three days: Maundy Thursday (19), Good Friday (12) and Easter Sunday (21). Each service accommodates about 100 people, who need to book their seats through the registration system on the website. The Easter Vigil service on Saturday will be conducted without the faithful, and will be streamed live.
All the churches held special prayers for those affected by coronavirus and seeking an end to the ongoing pandemic situation.
“As Christians celebrate Easter, which commemorates the victory of Christ over death, we pray in a special way that the Almighty may grant strength and courage to all to face the difficulties of the present time,” Father Kadukanmakal added.
The Church of South India parish Abu Dhabi, parish priest Rev Sojee Vergis John, said they will hold special prayers on Easter Sunday.
“Throughout this Holy Week, we also prayed for the well-being, good health and prosperity of the rulers of this country, the citizens and residents of UAE and for the whole world. Church services were broadcasted through online platforms and parishioners were provided online links,” Rev John said.
Churches across the country followed a similar process with faithful in their thousands following the ceremonies online.
For Iraqi Christian Hanan Khadouri, who has been celebrating Easter in the UAE for over a decade, this time it will involve prayer and reminiscing about previous years when she used to host or attend a gathering during the holy week. “I am not even inviting my extended family home as we want to mark the occasion safely and not get emotional about it. Instead, we are all attending the mass services online.
However, that has not deterred me from doing our traditional rituals such as making our traditional sweet dish called Kulacha and placing decorated eggs in the house, which is a sign of a new life. Another thing that we will be doing differently during this holy week would be fasting and having only vegetarian food,” Hanan said.
Bijo Liju, a nurse at a clinic, is elated to celebrate her first Holy Week with her family in the UAE. “I recently moved here and got a job. I opted for a night shift on Thursday to be able to follow Good Friday service at home with my husband and other family members. This is a day of prayer and devotion, which leads to Easter celebrations. Through live broadcast, I was also able to follow both the services held at the churches here and in Kerala.”
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