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Churches celebrate Easter amid COVID-19

Worshippers attend Easter Mass on Sunday at a church in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. (Yonhap)
Worshippers attend Easter Mass on Sunday at a church in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. (Yonhap)

Christians in South Korea celebrated Easter Sunday both online and offline as the country stands at a crossroads between a possible new wave of COVID-19 and mass vaccination.

Major megachurches held restricted services without communion and had most of their members join online, following government regulations that allow churches in the capital area to operate at only 20 percent of full capacity.

A total of 68 Protestant denominations and 17 Protestant associations representing different cities and provinces gathered at SaRang Church in Seocho-gu, Seoul, for their annual joint Easter service. SaRang Church’s main chapel, which can hold up to 6,700 people, set a maximum of 700 people for Easter Sunday -- well below the 20 percent allowed under the current social distancing rules. A compilation of individual prerecorded choral performances by 2,021 people was shown on video during the service.

Last year politicians and government officials were not invited to the service due to the virus situation, but many were set to participate this year. They included Seoul mayoral candidates Oh Se-hoon and Park Young-sun, both Roman Catholics.

President Moon Jae-in, also a Catholic, sent an Easter message on social media Sunday.

“Today is the Easter of recovery and growth. I celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and show my respect to the people who are creating hope in an unprecedented crisis situation with patience and sharing,” said Moon. “I will make a country where honest sweat and simple dreams can be respected. Like the resurrection of Jesus, we will also change a ‘history of suffering’ to a ‘history of hope.’”

The Catholic community also held Easter Mass around the country. Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung celebrated Mass at Seoul’s Myeongdong Cathedral.

“Many people are facing psychological and financial hardships and losing their lives because of COVID-19,” said Yeom leading up to Easter on Wednesday. “The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer can be expected to lead more people to poverty.”

Lamenting that many young people are losing hope in the future, he also said, “In order to overcome this crisis, leaders of the country and society need to be aware of their responsibility and need to be modest and accept their mistakes and need for improvement.”

Meanwhile, the government is on high alert for a resurgence of the virus after Easter weekend, with many people attending religious services or going on outings to view cherry blossoms. Over 500 people have tested positive each day in Korea since March 31.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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