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December 20, 2022, 07.24 PM

JAKARTA, - The Religious Affairs Ministry said that churches are allowed to expand their congregation capacity for Christmas after receiving the police permit and notifying the local Covid-19 task force.

"Increasing the congregation capacity beyond the church complex is allowed as long as the police permit has been received and the local Covid-19 handling task force has been notified," the ministry's spokesperson, Anna Hasbie, told a press conference, Tuesday, Dec. 20.

The congregation size for Christmas is regulated by Circular No. 15/2022 on Christmas celebration amid the Covid-19 pandemic signed by Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas on Dec. 19, she said.

The spokesperson underscored that the regulation allowed offline Christmas activities in churches to be attended by 100 percent of the church's capacity, rescinding the restriction enforced during Christmas the last two years.

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"The congregation attending offline Christmas activities this year will be capped at 100 percent of the church capacity. Despite this, activities must be held with continued adherence to strict health protocols," Anna said.

She said that if the congregation size for Christmas celebrations at churches is expected to surpass the 100-percent maximum capacity, then the church organizer is allowed to use other rooms apart from the church's main hall.

The installation of tents or other non-permanent shelters to accommodate the congregation is also permitted on grounds that it remains within the church complex, she added.

Meanwhile, the ministry's Catholic Community Guidance acting Director General, A.M. Adiyarto Sumardjono, said that the circular aims to ensure that residents can participate in Christmas activities safely and peacefully.

"The circular demonstrated the minister's mindfulness to ensure the Christians' rights of worship is fulfilled and that Christmas activities would take place safely," he said.

Moreover, the ministry's Christian Community Guidance Director General, Jeane Marie Tulung, expressed hope that Christians would observe the ministry's circular while celebrating Christmas.

"It is our collective hope that Christians would attend their Christmas Mass safely and smoothly," she said.

Source: State News Antara

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