Indonesian Catholics prepare for Holy Week rites
by Mathias Hariyadi
With a cross hanging on the walls and an olive branch the sign of the "presence of God", families prepare to celebrate Easter. Chrism Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Stations of the Cross and Passion the most significant moments. On Sunday hundreds of catechumens will be baptized.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - After spending Lent praying the rosary, promoting meetings between families and small communities, collecting funds for charitable activities, reading the Bible and Gospel, Indonesian Catholics are preparing to live the rites of Holy Week with faith and devotion. Starting with Palm Sunday, which was celebrated yesterday in all the dioceses of the archipelago. In Indonesia, every Catholic family has a cross and an olive branch, considered the true "icons" that testify to the "presence of God" in the homes of the faithful, and within each family.

The rites of Holy Week begin Thursday morning with the Chrism Mass, with the blessing of the oils used for religious services. According to a tradition established in Jakarta and promoted by the late Msgr. Leo Soekoto SJ, the Archbishop meets all priests - diocesan or otherwise, including those belonging to religious orders - to participate in the "Misa Krisma", as it was dubbed in local languages.

The celebration will unite thousands of faithful from all parishes of the capital, over time the tradition of the Chrism Mass has spread to other dioceses in the country, with little variation from place to place. In Purwokerto, in the northwestern province of Central Java, the Mass will be celebrated by Msgr. Julianus Sunarka SJ Wednesday evening. "Before beginning  - diocesan sources tell the - priests attend a spiritual retreat of prayer lasting three days."

The Holy Thursday functions see the continuous exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Eucharistic processions to church. The faithful approach this with fervour and devotion by praying the Rosary throughout the night until morning. On Good Friday they celebrate the Stations of the Cross at 3 pm, with the commemoration of the Passion of Christ, after which the faithful - in an orderly and patient queue - wait for their turn to kiss the cross. In some areas real "representations" of passion are held, to allow the devotees to adhere with greater participation to the liturgy and meditation.

Finally, this year at Easter hundreds of catechumens throughout Indonesia will be baptized. Fr. Sweko Swandi Marlindo, from St Peter's parish in central Java, confirmed to AsiaNews that "21 baptisms of young people and adults" will be celebrated, while for infants the rite will be held the next day. In the parish of the Sacred Heart in Tegal, also in Central Java, there will be 27 baptisms among adults and 36 others in Tanjungkarang in the cathedral of the Diocese of Lampung, South Sumatra. Among these, the oldest newly-converted is 73.