Keep Christmas festivities in UAE low-key, be prudent: Religious leaders

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Photo by Ryan Lim/Khaleej Times
Photo by Ryan Lim/Khaleej Times

Dubai - Churches in Sharjah have been given permission to organise Christmas masses under strict social distancing protocols this year.

by Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Sat 19 Dec 2020, 11:03 PM

Last updated: Sun 20 Dec 2020, 6:17 AM

Though most UAE residents are keen on celebrating the Christmas season, religious leaders have reminded that merriments must remain low-key and Covid-safe.

While churches in Sharjah have been given permission to organise Christmas masses under strict social distancing protocols this year, those in Dubai await a final decision on the matter from local 
authorities.


Fr Lennie JA Conully, parish priest of the St Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai, urged the faithful to make safety a priority. “Celebrations can be done next year…life is more important,” he said.

“Protocols set by the government must be strictly followed as the UAE government is doing a very good job in protecting us from the pandemic. People must wear masks, gloves, and maintain social distancing.”


Christmas masses in Sharjah

Fr Joji Miriam from the St Gregorios Orthodox Church told Khaleej Times: “In Sharjah, our Christmas mass will be organised from 6pm to 10.30pm on December 24. Those wishing to participate should pre-register online.”

The church will accept only 160 worshippers to attend mass this year. “Last year, we had about 5,000 people attending the Christmas mass,” he added.

All other festivities, like carolling, will not be taking place this year. “Regular mass is currently being organised at 50 per cent capacity. All worshippers have to wear masks and maintain a two-metre distance. Also, only people in the age group of 12-60 can come to the church.”

“We will also stream the mass online. This year, I request people to stay home,” added Fr Miriam.

Similarly, St Michael’s Catholic Church in Sharjah will hold a vigil mass on December 23 and 24. Christmas mass on December 25 will begin at 3am and continue until 8.15 pm for people of different nationalities.

Dubai churches await decision

Fr Lennie JA Conully, parish priest of the St Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai, said churches in Dubai are still awaiting a decision from local authorities on the subject of organising mass for Christmas.

The church has been organising online sermons and is yet to open its doors to worshippers.

Fr Bineesh Babu from the St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral has also said the church is awaiting a go-ahead from local authorities.

“As residents of this country, it is our responsibility to be safe and keep our communities safe.”

Reverend Harrison Chinnakumar from the Holy Trinity Church said: “This year is a special year, and my advice to people is to keep festivities to the bare minimum.”

‘Different but still merry’

“It will be a different Christmas, but that does not mean that it cannot be a merry one,” Dr Hans Kluge, regional director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Europe office, said in an online broadcast on Wednesday.

Kluge said that during the recent religious celebrations of Ramadan and Diwali, people had turned to technology to get together, with virtual community celebrations online. As Christmas approaches, he said, the public should consider whether getting together with loved ones was prudent.

“Cherish the festive season with those close to you. If it’s a large gathering, with vulnerable people, you might have to postpone that gathering until you can safely gather,” he said.

dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

Dhanusha Gokulan
Dhanusha Gokulan


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