Greek Metropolis of Kythira closes churches to faithful after bishop arrested for celebrating services

Kythira, Greece, March 23, 2020

Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira. Photo: Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira. Photo:     

His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira of the Greek Orthodox Church was arrested on Friday, March 20, for defying the government’s order and continuing to celebrate the Divine services.

The Holy Synod of the Greek Church earlier announced that it would reduce its parishes’ schedules to just one-hour Liturgies on Sunday, though the state then overruled the hierarchs and ordered that all services be canceled until March 30 in an effort to contain the coronavirus.

According to the Greek newspaper, the Metropolitan was arrested after celebrating the Divine Liturgy in the Holy Cross Cathedral in defiance of the state’s order. The doors of the cathedral were open and the bells were rung, calling the faithful to worship.

Met. Seraphim’s decision to serve angered Mayor Stratos Harhalakis, who stated that “no one can be above the law.”

The Greek hierarch was taken to the police station and a case was opened against him. He was later released by the order of the Prosecutor General after it was explained to him that next time he would have to appear before a special court for considering the cases of those detained at the scene of a crime.

According to a statement published on the Metropolis’ website the next day, all the services in the Metropolis are now closed to the public.

“Taking into account the unjustified, unfair, and artificial hype that arose both in the media and online at the expense of the clergy of our Metropolis, and mainly our bishop, with deep regret we inform the residents of Kythira that from today all services in our churches are discontinued,” the statement reads.

The statement also specifies that this is in stark contrast to the centuries-old tradition of the Orthodox Church.

The Divine Liturgy will be served with the doors open, but only with the priest present.

The Metropolis rejects all charges of disobedience, violation of the law, and indifference to the health of the faithful, noting that it had immediately taken appropriate measures—canceling Sunday School classes, parish meetings, Bible studies, and other such events.

The Metropolis also asked whether the rules for controlling those who come to the island from Italy and elsewhere were followed, or if the local diocese would bear the brunt of the blame for any possible infections.

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Joel Gabriel3/25/2020 10:35 am
What about the people who need to have confession and communion? There's no room for the ignorance of the state in this matter. God bless the Orthodox Church. Lord have mercy.
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