05/14/2020, 12.53
THAILAND
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Masses and prayers in Buddhist temples blocked in Bangkok

by Weena Kowitwanij

Due to the pandemic, public Masses have not been celebrated for two months. The lockdown might last until the end of May. The faithful are getting used to the "new normal" with online Masses. Buddhist prayers in temples have also been put on hold, not the distribution of food to the poor. The unemployed form long lines.

 

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – For the Archdiocese of Bangkok, tomorrow may be the first day in which Masses could be open to the public, after almost two months of lockdown due to the pandemic.

Card Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovidhavanij had announced on 20 March that open Masses were cancelled on weekdays and holidays until 4 April.

However, due to the ongoing health crisis and the curfew imposed by the government, public masses were postponed to 31 May, with the possibility they might resume around 18 May.

For the past two months Catholics have had to pray at home – usually the rosary – and follow Mass on social media, including on Sundays.

Some Catholics set themselves the task of reaching one million Hail Marys for coronavirus victims.

Everyone who starts to pray has been invited to find ten friends to join the prayer marathon. Mostly people though simply follow the Mass or rosary online.

Fr Joseph Chanchai Tiewpaingam, parish priest at the St Louis Catholic Church in Bangkok, celebrates Mass every day and sends the video of the service to the members of his parish.

He regularly calls on them to be disciplined and get used to this the new “normal" of living with the coronavirus. This includes: following Mass online, respecting social distancing (1.5 metres), always wearing a mask, making spiritual communion, receiving the blessing, staying at home, holding no banquets or celebrations, and taking care of the sick and the elderly.

Buddhists, who represent 95 per cent of the Thai population, also closely follow lockdown rules. The country's supreme Buddhist patriarch, Somdet Phra Sangharaja, gave indications to the faithful to strictly follow government regulations.

On 25 March, he led a prayer ceremony at the Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Ratcha Wora Maha Wihan temple, to encourage and bless Thailand’s population during the coronavirus pandemic.

He also instructed every Buddhist temple to take care of all those who have economic problems after losing their jobs.

Sometimes, police have stopped food distribution because thousands of people line up with no regard for social distancing.

Last month, for example, Wat Don Muang temple in Bangkok had to halt giving out food because a kilometre-long queue had formed (pictured).

In Thailand, at least 27 million people have lost their job due to the pandemic.

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