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Malaysian bishop offers fasting, abstinence alternatives for Fridays within Chinese New Year celebrations

Archbishop Simon Poh

With two Fridays falling within the 15-day celebration of the Chinese New Year in Malaysia, a Malaysian bishop offers alternatives for fasting and abstinence that the faithful can observe during these days.

In a statement from Kuching Archbishop Simon Poh, he explained other ways to perform penance that can be performed on February 15 and 22, aside from eating smaller meals or abstaining from eating meat, noting that the Chinese New Year and the Church’s Lenten season vastly contrast each other.

“The focus of both celebrations is different. CNY is about Thanksgiving and family reunions, while Lent calls us to the discipline of fasting, abstinence, sacrifice, prayer, and almsgiving,” he stressed.

“Catholics tend to equate doing penance on Friday with simply not eating meat. And on Friday, some would eat seafood consisting of prawns, crabs, etc., which is tastier and more expensive. Such “abstinence” would not be counted as doing penance,” he explained.

As a result, the archbishop reiterated some alternatives that the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei (CBCSM) has recommended since 2007.

“As an alternative to abstinence from meat, choose other forms of penance like participating in the Stations of the Cross Service, daily Mass, making a trip to pray in Church before the Blessed Sacrament, [gathering] the family to pray the Rosary at home, and other acts of kindness and love as our offering to our Lord Jesus,” he also said.

During the Chinese New Year celebrations, individuals can engage in acts of penance by relinquishing vices and abstaining from certain pleasurable hobbies.

The prelate also urged the faithful to donate the money they save from doing acts of penance to the sick, poor, and incarcerated.

Moreover, Archbishop Poh stated that whatever form of penance a person chooses to observe, the ultimate goal must always be to achieve a life of holiness, especially in a penitent season of the Church such as Lent.

“The final aim is to grow in the life of Christ, with a desire to turn away from sin and a conversion of heart to follow Jesus more closely in his relationship with his Heavenly Father, with our family, and with our neighbors, especially those in need,” said the prelate.

Meanwhile, the CBCSM has ruled that fasting and abstinence will still be obligatory for Catholics during Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 14, 2024. - Luke Godoy


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