NEWS

Archbishop asks Greek PM to allow churches to open

APOSTOLOS LAKASAS

TAGS: Religion, Society, Coronavirus

Greece's Archbishop Ieronymos has written to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to ask for churches to be opened for the country's faithful as long as social distancing regulations imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic are observed.

Ieronymos wrote the letter as the head of the church's Holy Synod on behalf of all 96 Greek bishops while Kathimerini understands that the Church of Crete has sent a separate letter to Education and Religious Affairs Minister Niki Kerameus requesting the same thing.

The request came amid reports that several churches opened to worshippers on Sunday, having observed restrictions in the runup to Easter and during the holiday. 

There is reportedly frustration in the ranks of the church that the opening of churches is not included in a three-phase plan for phasing out restrictions expected to be heralded by Mitsotakis this week. The decision by performer Alkistis Protopsalti to tour Athens on a bus performing to city-dwellers is said to have aggravated the sense of unfairness. 

In his letter, which was reportedly sent on Thursday, Ieronymos appeals to Mitsotakis as a "faithful Christian" and draws his attention to the fact that the Church observed restrictions over Easter, traditionally the busiest religious holiday, despite much pressure from hard-core clerics for churches to open, and presses for churches to be included in plans for easing restrictions.  

The decision by performer Alkistis Protopsalti to tour Athens on a bus performing to city-dwellers is said to have aggravated many in the church. Bishop Theoklitos of Stagon and Meteora is said to have said the singer's stunt was not justifiable a few days after clerics were prevented from holding the traditional epitaph processions on Good Friday.  "So we've opened our doors and we're ringing our bells and we are here to defend ourselves to anyone who wants to complain," he said. 

Bishop Theoklitos of Ierissos struck a similar note, saying that "attempts to impose the state on the church will not pass" while Bishop Ieronymos of Larissis noted that, "a popular singer cannot tour Athens with a megaophone to cheer up Greeks and the same thing to be forbidden to parishes." 

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