Indonesian President Joko Widodo called on Christians in the predominantly Muslim country to strengthen “bonds of brotherhood” and protect the environment in a Christmas message.
The president addressed the faithful on Christmas Day during a visit to the cathedral in Bogor, West Java.
“Let’s continue to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and our environment for the rise of the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia,” Widodo was quoted as saying in a report on Radio Veritas Asia.
Father Yohanes Suparto, vicar general of the Diocese of Bogor, said he was pleased that Widodo visited the church.
“We were very, very surprised at how happy everyone really felt when Jokowi entered the church, after all, Jokowi turned out to be a person who always wanted to be close to anyone,” said the priest.
Widodo is popularly known in Indonesia by his nickname “Jokowi.”
Father Suparto said the president’s visit “is history … because it is only Jokowi who has ever come as president to enter our church.”
“Jokowi’s message was also powerful for us, so we must keep being united and tolerant for the sake of the rise of the Indonesian country we love,” said the priest.
Rita Marcia, a choir member at the Bogor Cathedral Church, said the president’s visit was “amazing,” adding that the moment was “the most beautiful gift” during the Christmas celebration.
“This is the most wonderful Christmas gift for the people of the Bogor Cathedral. It is a beautiful present for us,” she said.
“A president who visits with humility, with all of the rites he must observe in the church. He had waited to enter. It’s most humbling, most appreciative, and most extraordinary for us,” Marcia told Radio Veritas Asia.
Muslims comprise more than 80 percent of the country’s 273 million people. As of June 2021, there were 28.82 million Christians in the country with about 8.5 million Catholics.