There were no Sunday Masses in Catholic churches in Indonesia’s Denpasar Diocese on March 14 after they were all closed in a mark of respect for the Hindu community’s observance of Nyepi — the Day of Silence.
Masses in Bali, a Hindu-majority province, were instead held on Saturday, March 13, by order of Bishop Silvester San of Denpasar.
Nyepi, a national holiday in Indonesia, marks the arrival in 78 AD of Indian Prince Aji Caka, who established a Hindu kingdom on Java. The day after marks the beginning of the new year for Hindus.
As part of the observance, all internet connections and cellphone services were also shut down for the day.
Only hospitals and vital services could operate normally during the annual celebration, which sees streets on Bali almost completely deserted.
“We know the importance of this day to our Hindu brothers and sisters, so we too should respect this,” Bishop San said in a circular letter, ordering the church closures and Mass to be celebrated a day early.
Divine Word Father Laurentius Ketut Supriyanto from Holy Trinity Parish in Bali’s Tuka, Badung district, said celebrating Mass a day early was no problem.
“It’s an example of interreligious cooperation. It is a special day on the local Hindu calendar. The day is for Hindus,” he said.
Vincensius Raga, a Catholic who lives in Denpasar, also said it was no problem for him to respect another religion’s traditions.
“It doesn’t reduce the sacredness of the Mass,” he told UCA News.
Every year Bali, including its airports, shuts down for a day and sees pecalang, or religious police, combing the streets looking for anyone straying outdoors.
Locals are supposed to fast, meditate and practice silence as they symbolically cleanse their souls from 6am until the same time the following day.
The prelude to the special day in contrast is a carnival atmosphere with street parades with people dressed in costumes representing figures in local folklore.
About 87 percent of the province’s 4.3 million population are Hindus, Catholics make up about 0.79 percent, with Muslims, Protestants, Buddhists and Confucians comprising the rest.
Read More: Bali churches go quiet on Hindus’ Day of Silence