The Indonesian president makes his first, unannounced visit to the Cathedral of Bogor, which is a few hundred metres from the residence where he spends the weekend. “Together let us foster tolerant relations," he told the faithful present at the first Christmas service. In Banten province, a group of moderate Muslims brings flowers to the faithful of a church under construction for 32 years.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bogor, East Java, on the occasion of Christmas.
His gesture was in line with the spirit of tolerance among religious groups promoted by the Indonesian Ministry for Religious Affairs for the holidays.
Joko Widodo arrived at the church unannounced, approached the altar and greeted the faithful at the end of the first Christmas service.
“This is the very first time the Indonesian president comes to visit us and enters the church,” said Fr Yohanes Suparto, vicar general of the Diocese of Bogor.
On weekends Joko Widodo stays the whole day at Bogor State Palace, which is just 500 metres from the cathedral.
To the thousand faithful present, the president said: “Our Catholic fellow citizens are also expected to contribute to social harmony in our society. Together let us foster tolerant relations with different social groups to strengthen national unity. Happy Christmas to you all."
For the cathedral’s priests, "The president's Christmas wishes are a strong message for us. It was truly an outstanding gift this Christmas."
The faithful were equally surprised during the late afternoon Christmas service in St Bernadette Pinang parish church in Tangerang, Banten province.
Scores of activists from the Islamic GusDurian movement, men but also women in their hijab, approached the altar to bring their Christmas greetings.
The GusDurians are linked to the late President Abdurrahman Wahid, also known as Gus Dur, an iconic interfaith figure in the country who fought to ensure the security of religious minorities and support tolerance in society.
The group of Muslims brought flowers to the priests and choir members.
The gesture was particularly significant since the community of St Bernadette Pinang has been building their church for 32 years. At present, 80 per cent of the building has been completed.