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A woman prays during Mass at the cathedral in Jakarta in 2019 (CNS/Darren Whiteside, Reuters)

As Indonesians heads to the polls on February 14, which also happens to be Ash Wednesday this year, the country’s bishops are making special provisions to ensure that the minority Catholic population can vote. Source: Crux.

Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, will select the president, vice president, members of the national parliament and members of local legislative assemblies.

The presidential race appears to be a three-way contest between Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto; Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the mayor of Solo, and the son of outgoing president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo; and former education minister and ex-Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan.

In order to ensure that the approximately nine million Catholics in Indonesia are able to take part in the election, some dioceses in the country have decided to hold Ash Wednesday services either on Tuesday, February 13, or Thursday, February 15, depending on local circumstances.

“Both the general election and Ash Wednesday are important for us as Catholics and Indonesians,” said Bishop Antonius Subianto Bunjamin of Bandung, President of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference.

“The active involvement in both events are the responsibility to fulfill our duty as citizens and our call to repent as Christians,” Bishop Bunjamin said. “We believe that we have to live as 100 per cent Catholic and 100 per cent Indonesian.”

In his own diocese, Bishop Bunjamin said, services will still be held on Wednesday as usual, but he’s also given parishes the option of adding services on either Tuesday or Thursday so that people will not be forced to choose on Wednesday between attending church or casting their vote.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta.

“The decision not to celebrate the Ash Wednesday Mass on Wednesday morning is mainly based on pastoral prudence, that is, to allow the Catholics to have enough time to go to the pooling station and give their votes,”  Cardinal Suharyo said. “In other words, we hope that Church-based activities will not hinder them from giving their votes.”


Indonesia to move Ash Wednesday amid bitterly contested elections (By Nirmala Carvalho, Crux)