By Robin Gomes
Easter Masses in many Asian countries were streamed live online or on state TV, with Catholic Church leaders encouraging their faithful to responsibility and compassion in fighting the virus that has hit the poor and the vulnerable the hardest.
In Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, East Timor, Archbishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili delivered an Easter Sunday homily, stressing the importance of unity in fighting the coronavirus in the Catholic-majority nation.
Jesus' death and resurrection are a call for everyone to abandon personal interests and focus on the welfare of society, particularly those affected by the virus, he said during Mass that was broadcast live on television, radio and social media.
Archbishop da Silva also commended the government and doctors for their efforts in trying to keep the virus in check.
With over 95% of its some 1.2 million population professing Catholicism, Timor-Leste is Asia’s most Catholic nation.
Meanwhile in Muslim-majority Pakistan, in an unprecedented move, state-run news channel PTV telecast live the Easter Sunday Mass of Archbishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi Diocese.
“While celebrating the joy of Easter, let us not forget all those affected who are suffering due to the Covid-19 epidemic,” said Archbishop Arshad, the President of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
“We pray for all who have lost their lives and their families. We entrust all the sick and suffering in the hands of God. May Almighty God protect them and grant them good health,” the archbishop said in his homily.
In Sri Lanka, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo said that Christians have forgiven the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attackers who brought terror to the island nation a year ago.
“Last year, some misguided youths attacked us and we as humans could have given a human and selfish response," Cardinal Ranjith said during an Easter Sunday Mass, streamed live on television. “We meditated on Christ's teachings and loved them, forgave them and had pity on them,” he said in his homily.
In the Philippines, Asia’s most populous Catholic nation, the bishops praised the heroism and sacrifices of many people, particularly the healthcare workers, saying they are concrete signs of the Easter spirit in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
“I begin to believe that we, as Filipinos, together with all the people in the world, are bigger than the threat of the coronavirus pandemic,” Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, the president of the country’s bishops said during an Easter vigil Mass.
“Together, seeing the countless acts of sacrifice and service, acts of kindness and compassion, we begin to see that the spirit of Easter is still very much alive in our hearts,” Archbishop Valles said.
“It is a spirit that springs forth from both convictions, the conviction that the Lord truly and deeply loves us and the conviction that we are a people truly capable of loving and caring for each other in the worst of times,” he added.
The Holy Rosary Church in Angeles City, near the Philippines' capital Manila, pasted the empty pews with family photos that the faithful had emailed to the priest.