2961162
Fr Martin Sirju

BOBIE-LEE DIXON

[email protected]

As Christmas draws near, religious leaders call for prayer, a return to family life, an increase in faith and solidarity among mankind.

Archbishop Barbara Burke, of the Shouter Baptist, said while the faith would be celebrating both Christmas and New Year’s Day with two services each and observing all COVID-19 protocols, the services were not the main concern.

Burke, who is also a Justice of the Peace, called for the nation to pray without ceasing because of the state of crime in T&T.

She said there was too much crime occurring in the country, crimes people were not even aware existed.

“I don’t think the public is aware of the amount of criminal activity in this land,” Burke lamented.

She said evil was stalking the land and if there was ever a time T&T needed prayers, that time was now.

“If an angel can open a vial and redeem the land. We have to pray and ask God to spare our land. We have enough ministers of all religions who can pray. But we have to pray in season and out of season to catch the right season,” said Burke.

Representing the Pentecostal body, the Arima-based church, Praise, and Worship Centre—an affiliate with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies (PAWI), said while various churches affiliated with PAWI will set their own services accordingly, Praise and Worship Centre would not be having any Christmas service this year.

However, it will host a post-Christmas service on December 27, and an Old Year’s night service on December 31 with all COVID-19 protocols observed.

It said in a period of uncertainty in which the world had found itself during this pandemic, it was calling on all believers to increase their faith and take their trust in God to another level.

Meanwhile, Pundit Ramdath Mahase appealed to the public to take family life seriously. Mahase said last Sunday a pre-Christmas service and family event was held to mark the season.

He said services would continue every Sunday with special services on Old Year’s night and New Year’s morning.

Mahase said the family was important and though, the pandemic brought with it many restrictions, some good came out of it as in many instances families were drawn closer.

He noted this Christmas, children would get the best gift of all—family, as he believes more family members were now forced to celebrate indoors as the country continued to observe COVID-19 protocols.

Speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church, Fr Martin Sirju, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain and Cathedral Administrator, said while the church did not offer a collective message, he was certain messages this year would emphasise, keeping one’s faith and living in solidarity with others during the pandemic.

“Solidarity does not mean only giving people material things, but also thinking of their health, because since God became a human, he took our fleshly position and so flesh and blood matter and we have an obligation to protect that flesh and blood by reducing community spread, living responsibly and with sympathy for others,” said Sirju.

He said for the Christmas and Old Year’s services, they anticipate a larger than usual crowd because there were parishioners from west-Trinidad who could not get space in their churches, as these churches were fully booked.

Sirju explained this was as a result of the system the various parishes incorporated to ensure all public health and COVID-19 guidelines remained intact.

He said the church took the initiative to utilise the calendly software, which allows all parishes to do prescheduling of attendees, to regulate the number of people attending the mass.

For its Christmas Eve and Christmas morning services, as well as its Old Year’s and New Year’s Day services, Sirju said to ensure that the protocols were followed on these days, more hospitality members and ushers would be utilised to avoid any potential crowding. For the parishes which may experience an overflow, he said tents and chairs would also be set up at their car parks, once the accommodation can be made