– Marco Carvalho
A “somewhat strange feeling.” This is how Father Daniel Ribeiro defines the experience he had last Sunday, when he celebrated the Sunday Eucharist before an empty temple. Despite the strangeness, the Brazilian priest considers that the option of transmitting the Mass over the internet proves that the “Church is alive and dynamic,” even though the impossibility of administering the Sacraments constitutes a loss for the local Catholics.
The Church invites and the priest obeys. Daniel Ribeiro has celebrated Mass by himself on board airplanes, at airports or at his parents’ home, but an experience like the one he did last Sunday at Macau’s Cathedral is something unheard of in the already long journey of the young Brazilian priest : “Celebrating an online Mass in which I was the only celebrant, the only person involved, it was something new for me and, I must admit, there is a mixture of feelings,” the parish vicar of Macau’s Cathedral told O Clarim.
“On the one hand, there is a positive feeling, of knowing that the Church is alive and that it is dynamic. People didn’t stop participating or they didn’t give up the possibility of attending Mass, despite the fact that we are faced with a health emergency. The negative side is that, normally, the priest looks at people while he celebrates the Mass, he communicates with them and tries to interpret people’s reactions. The interaction with people during the celebration is very important. I was often a little lost,” admits Daniel Ribeiro.
The Diocese of Macau announced last week the decision to suspend religious services and to close the local Catholic churches until at least February 19th. At the time, it proposed to attend to the spiritual needs of the Catholic community with the transmission, via the internet, of Masses in Portuguese, Chinese and English.
The measure, the young priest assumes, helps to fulfill the Church’s evangelizing mission, but there are other aspects of Catholic life and faith that cannot be answered through the use of technology: “The mission of the priest is to spread the word, to preach and teach the word, but his mission is also to administer the Sacraments. The preaching of the word can happen almost normally through the use of technology, given the circumstances,” the Brazilian priest, who manages a channel on You Tube called “A minute with God,” asserts. “The sacraments, in fact, people cannot receive them and this is a loss, both for the priest and for the faithful. The desire of everyone, including the ministers, is that this situation can be over as soon as possible,” Daniel Ribeiro recognizes.