BUKIT MERTAJAM: After two years of muted celebrations, some 500 Christians thronged the Christmas mass at the Minor Basilica of St Anne here.

Decked in new, colourful attire, parishioners turned up as early as 5.30pm to attend the Christmas Eve mass which was conducted in Tamil.

Anne Janse, 55, who came with her husband S. Vincent, 60, and their sons, said she is grateful to be back in the church for mass after a lapse of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As a Christian and fellow member of the community, I feel proud and happy to be here,” she said.

The housewife said she wished for a new beginning not only for her family, but for all Malaysians.

“As the new year approaches, Malaysians deserve a better future and I will pray for our country’s prosperity and future,” she said.

Janse’s son Villjohne Vincent, 23, said it was a blessing to be physically present in church for the Christmas mass this year.

“Everyone around us here in the church are happy to be present, and we can feel so much positive and merry vibes of Christmas,” said the Universiti Sains Malaysia student.

The session that was conducted by Bishop of Penang, Rt Reverend Datuk Seri Sebastian Francis, began at about 6pm and lasted an hour.

Reverend Deacon Lazarus Jonathan, 66, who assisted Bishop Francis, said mass was conducted in three languages on the eve of Christmas.

“The first vigil, in Tamil, was at 6pm, followed by Mandarin mass at 8pm, and the English mass at 10.30pm,” he said.

He said this year is a significant year of the Yuletide celebration as it is being conducted for the first time after a lapse of two years.

He added that the mass prayers were not only for the Christian community, but for all Malaysians regardless of race or religion.

“We hope our country will open a new chapter in every aspect of our lives for a better future,” he said.

The Christmas Day prayer will be conducted in English at 8am, followed by one in Bahasa Malaysia, today.