Bratislava, Slovakia, March 18, 2020
“We oppose the, in our opinion, unprofessional behavior and threatening, hateful speech of the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, from whom, despite his emotional public statements, we have not received any official statement or regulation,” write His Beatitude Metropolitan Rastislav of Prešov, the primate of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and His Eminence Archbishop Juraj of Michalovce and Košice, in a new statement on the site of the Prešov Diocese.
Last week, Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini publicly stated that he was disappointed in the Church and would be the first to impose sanctions against it if it continued to hold services despite regulations from the crisis headquarters he heads.
However, the decision of the Public Health Office of March 9 is vaguely worded and does not explicitly specify a ban on public Church services, the hierarchs write in their statement.
All regulations should be clearly communicated to the recipients, not by private phone calls to any third parties, Met. Rastisalv and Abp. Juraj write, noting that they are very disappointed in “one of the highest representatives of the state,” whose irresponsible behavior forces people to try to understand vague public measures by themselves.
The hierarchs also reaffirm their previous statement that both bodily and spiritual health must be cared for in such times of crises.
Nevertheless, having received a clarification from the Chief Health Officer of the Slovak Republic, the hierarchs decided to continue liturgical services behind closed doors. The faithful will have individual access to the Sacraments upon agreement with their local priest, while maintaining standard hygiene regulations.
Moreover, “In these difficult times, the Orthodox Church prays even more intensively than usual for enough wisdom and responsibility for the competent officials in public administration and public health. It is ready to contribute in its traditional Christian and spiritual way to solving the whole situation, asking all of God’s blessing and health,” the statement reads.
The hierarchs go on to note that the instructions from the Slovak Office of Health on the organization of Church services, issued on March 11, include organizing only those services that cannot be postponed, arranging for outdoor services where possible, organizing services for as few people as possible, and excluding those who have been ordered to be quarantined or who show any signs of respiratory problems.
Where services are held, persons not from the same household should maintain a healthy distance from one another, and all the faithful should maintain high standards of hygiene.
“God is good and has sent us His Son, our Lord the God-Man Jesus, that we might live in the power of the Holy Spirit as children of God free from all fear,” the hierarchs remind their flock. Therefore, we must not panic, but support one another both with prayer and with practical help.
“Let us not judge those who have a weaker faith, that we might not be judged ourselves,” Met. Rastislav and Abp. Juraj exhort.
The faithful of the Church remain connected to God and to one another in the celebration of the holy Eucharist, and the hierarchs look forward to celebrating the Lord’s Pascha with their faithful flock, they write in conclusion, calling God’s blessing upon them all.