If there were any doubts previously, during the coronavirus pandemic they have been completely dispelled. The “faithful” are a special social group. In Greece their number, especially when seen as prospective voters, is sizable, and so the parties treat them with great care and attention. To keep them happy, to keep them from turning against “us” (the composition of “us” changes), to impose measures and sanitary protocols but nothing “too much.”
The hesitancy, to put it gently, was clear from the first days of the pandemic, with the unforgettable flip-flopping over whether the virus can be spread through Holy Communion (compounded by the contribution of various “scientific” authorities), and since then there have been continuous communication issues, not with the Divine but with the people who follow it.
Over the last year and a half there has been a continuous tug of war between the state and society and the Church, the flock and its shepherds. This combustible situation was exacerbated by the vaccination drive. The official position of the Church was in favor of the vaccine but there is nothing more indefatigable than irrationality. We have heard (from reporting) and seen (from within the ICUs and the number of new cases) everything. Priests, monks and believers being aggressively indifferent to the virus, doubting its existence, stating that the virus wouldn’t dare enter the houses of the holy, believing that divine grace, and not science, saves lives.
In his address, the prime minister announced that “when it comes to religious life, the unvaccinated faithful must present negative laboratory testing.” This is a measure supported by the opposition. The day after, the government spokesperson clarified and reiterated the obvious, that “if during routine checks it is established that they are unable to display a rapid test they will be sanctioned according to the existing legal framework.”
The effort that has gone into coddling deniers and anti-vaxxers that are part of the, varied, Christian crowd is admirable.
Is it however endless? Even if it is to the detriment of public health?
In a recent interview with Kathimerini, Vartholomaios, the abbot of the Esphigmenou Monastery on Mount Athos, referred to the anti-vaxxer priests both within and without Mount Athos as “Taliban with habits.” And without habits, we would add.