Compromise sought over restrictions on church attendance

Compromise sought over restrictions on church attendance

The only disagreements within the Church of Greece regarding the government’s limits on services during the festive period due to the coronavirus pandemic is over the way it should respond, as the clergy are all in agreement that the decision must change.

The government’s decision stipulates that churches will only open on Christmas Day on December 25 and Epiphany on January 6, with a limit of nine people allowed, and 25 in cathedrals.

In view of the Holy Synod which convenes on Tuesday, and in a show of defiance, some bishops have called either for the closure of churches or their full operation with their own strict safety measures in place. Another course of action, proposed by what seems to be a minority, is that of a moderate approach so as to avoid an outright clash with the government. 

The issue has also provided a platform for suitors to the archdiocesan throne to push their personal agendas and rally their bases within the Church and in society.

​​​​​​What has reportedly become clear is that it will be very difficult for the Holy Synod to issue a decision in favor of compliance with the government measures if these do not change. According to ecclesiastical officials, even if the Holy Synod were to opt for a decision to comply with the government’s measures, they would in practice not be observed by a portion of bishops, priests and worshippers.

Given this situation, one group of bishops is seeking a consensual solution so that matters are not taken to extremes. This position is said to be embraced by Ignatios of Dimitriada, Chrysostomos of Messinia, Anthimos of Alexandroupoli, Ierotheos of Nafpaktos and Chrysostomos of Patra.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that the Holy Synod should reject the measures, and start an outright war which would entail closed churches with bells tolling mournfully and anti-government messages conveyed by bishops to their flocks. This is said to be the view of Daniel of Kaisarianis, Theologos of Serres, Ieronymos of Larissa and Panteleimon of Xanthi.

The third proposal is for the Holy Synod to decide that services should be performed with masks and that the number of people should be defined based on the size of each church, with a maximum number of 50. This is reportedly the position of Gabriel of Nea Ionia, Athinagoras of Ilion, Damaskinos of Didymoteicho. 

Some bishops have also called for the opening of churches normally, with it being left to the faithful to ensure that masks are worn and social distancing is observed. 

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