Bali Catholics: Christmas in Half-Full Pews

The Parochial Pastoral Council (DPP) of the Denpasar Cathedral has declared that the maximum quotas on the number allowed to attend Roman Catholic religious services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (24-25 December 2020) will not be increased during the continuing COVID-19 Pandemic. 

As reported by, a spokesman for the DPP said procedure to maintain physical distancing during religious services would remain unchanged, despite the traditionally high demand to attend church services during the period celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. The limits on total attendance were introduced in July 2020 when the Catholic Churches in Bali reopened their doors.

The DPP of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Denpasar has imposed a maximum attendance of 500 worshippers at any religious ritual. This total is around 20% of the total seating capacity of approximately 2,500 at the Cathedral. Speaking on Friday, 04 December 2020, the DPP Spokesperson, Alex, said: “The decision of the planning meeting for Christmas 2020 celebrations is that limitations on attendance (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) will be the same as current Saturday – Sunday services. This Christmas, there will be no additional tents installed outside, and the basement parking space will not be used for excess worshippers. The services will occur inside the Cathedral, with only 500 people following health protocols on physical distancing.

In this way, the DPP will ensure solemn observance of religious rituals following the official protocols for pubic health. Those protocols include thermal body temperature checks upon entering the church, the use of masks, washing hands with soap and water at conveniently provided basins, and maintaining physical distancing from other worshippers. Hand sanitizers are also readily available throughout the church.

Stewards inside the Cathedral will organize seating following physical distancing guidelines with wheelchairs positioned on a front row and pews occupied by only a maximum of four worshippers. Only three people will occupy shorter pews.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs has published a decree (Surat Edaran Nomor 23 of 2020) on the holding of religious ceremonies during the Christmas season that stipulates:

  1. The conduct and celebration of Christmas should be done in a simple manner avoiding excess, ideally conducted within the fellowship of the family unit.
  2. Collective congregational Christmas celebrations should also be broadcast or streamed online under the management of their respective house of worship.
  3. Collective congregational religious observances of Christmas should be conducted with maximum attendance at 50% of the respective house of worship’s normal capacity.
  4. Obligations for those involved in the management of places of worships:
    1. To engage staff to supervise the implementation of health protocols in the place of worship and their immediate surroundings.
    1. To undertake the cleaning and disinfection of houses of worship.
    1. To reduce the number of entrances and exits at houses of worship to simplify to control and monitor health protocols.
    1. To provide facilities for washing hands and hand sanitization at entrances and exits for houses of worships.
    1. To provide thermal temperature scans at all entrances and exits at places of worship. Worshippers registering temperatures above 37.5 degrees Celsius taken twice at an interval of five minutes should be refused admission. 
    1. Maintain a physical distance of a minimum of one-meter by preparing special signage on chairs and seating.
    1. Manage the gathering of worshippers in congregational settings to ensure physical distancing is maintained.
    1. To shorten the duration of worship services without detrecting from the solemnity of the event. 
    1. To post easily seen signage promoting health protocols in all houses of worship.
    1. To implements health protocols for worshippers coming from other cities, such as requiring the presentation of current PCR or Rapid Test results.
  5. Require worshippers following Christmas services:
    1. To be in good health.
    1. Use masks from the time they leave their house and throughout their attendance at religious services.
    1. To maintain hand cleanliness through the frequent washing of hands while attending church.
    1. To avoid instances of physical contact, such as handshakes and embraces.
    1. Maintain a physical distance from others of one-meter.
    1. Avoid spending undue periods in the place of worship or surrounding areas, with time limited to that required for ritual and worship.
    1. Children and aged worshippers at greater risk of infection should follow online services from their residence order following an order of worship set by the church’s hierarchy.
    1. To carefully follow the execution of health protocols at all houses of worship. 

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