Both the government and the Church of Greece clarified Thursday that churches will only be open for clerics during Orthodox Holy Week, in line with state efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and called on the faithful to pray at home.
“Under the present circumstances, the Holy Synod does not urge any believer to come to church. Churches are not open to the faithful and that is the point of holding holy services behind closed doors,” the metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios and Church of Greece spokesman, Ierotheos, told morning news bulletins Thursday.
Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias repeated that churches will not be open next week and thanked the Church of Greece for its contribution to the state’s efforts to curb Covid-19.
The comments followed some confusion over a circular issued by the Holy Synod on Tuesday indicating that churches would be open for two hours daily during Holy Week and four hours on Good Friday. After government fears of a potential crisis, the Church’s spokesman explained that the circular had been intended for metropolitans and other clerics, not for worshippers. “It is not a document encouraging church attendance,” Metropolitan Ierotheos said.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the authorities will work with the Church to avoid crowds gathering outside churches. He added that the annual ceremony bringing the Holy Fire from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem to Athens by airplane will be observed. Mayors who had wanted to distribute the flame to homes agreed to cancel those plans after government officials said this could pose a public health risk.