Belgrade, March 25, 2020
As many countries throughout the world continue to issue increasingly stringent guidelines during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, limiting the size of or completely shutting down public gatherings, in many places where the parishes remain open and the services continue, the Orthodox Church is being attacked by those who are ill-disposed towards it.
Thus, individuals from “well-known anti-Church and anti-Serbian circles” have begun an “orchestrated and slanderous chase against the Serbian Orthodox Church,” the Holy Synod of the Serbian Church writes in a recent communiqué.
According to the statement, the issue arose when the Divine Liturgy for the Third Sunday of Great Lent was served in all churches of the Serbian Church, where, although the relevant instructions were followed (no more than 5 people in the church, social distancing, etc.), all those present were communed with the same spoon.
The Synod writes:
Those concerned citizens (unfortunately, we cannot say concerned gentlemen) accuse us, namely, that we are communing the faithful from the same Chalice, in the traditional manner practiced for already two thousand years. They declare it a violation of the binding instructions of the state authorities, which is a pure lie, since the state does not deal with, nor can it deal with the content and manner of conducting the Divine Liturgy and other Church services. That is the sole matter of internal or autonomous church order and legislation, which the state accepts as valid, legitimate and legal in the sphere of public law.
Of course, no one is being forced to receive Holy Communion, the statement emphasizes, but, “The expectation of those who neither come to church nor partake of Holy Communion, is both unreasonable and utterly malicious that the Church itself would deny to its believers that which they deem most important and sacred—Holy Communion.”
The statement concludes with another call for all faithful to observe the relevant sanitary standards, including attending in church in groups of 5 or less.
The Vinnitsa Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has faced similar criticism and accusations since holding a cross procession two weeks ago.
The diocese is one of the most embattled in Ukraine, as its former hierarch, Simeon Shostatsky, was one of only two hierarchs to defect from the Church and join the schismatics, taking a portion of the clergy and parishes with him. His replacement, His Eminence Metropolitan Barsanuphius has been verbally, physically, and legally attacked since taking up his duties.
On March 8, more than 7,000 faithful marched through the streets of Vinnitsa in honor of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Although there were no restrictions on holding mass events at that time, the participants and the diocese were heavily criticized online and in the media.
However, as Archpriest Vladimir Puchkov, the head of the press service of the Vinnitsa Diocese, noted, more than 2 weeks (the incubation period for COVID-19) after the procession, there are no known cases of the coronavirus in Vinnitsa.
“Statistics for coronavirus infection in the Vinnitsa Province are zero. Meanwhile, the incubation period of COVID-19 is 14 days… The cross procession in Vinnitsa was held on March 8. Did you count? And now I suggest that everyone who made noise, who foamed at the mouth with righteous indignation, who wrote hysterical posts and scribbled foolish comments, who accused the faithful of spreading the coronavirus, and the Church of bacteriological sabotage, put some cute donkey ears on their head. After all you, you’re worthy of it,” Fr. Vladimir writes.
Meanwhile, the brotherhood of the Holy Dormition-Pochaev Lavra has had to respond to false reports in the media about the spread of the coronavirus within the monastery after four Moldovan pilgrims supposedly returned home infected.
The Pochaev Lavra has also been under constant, as nationalist schismatics have attempted to kick the brotherhood out and to prevent land from being transferred to the monastery use.
Despite the claims, there are no detected cases of the coronavirus at the holy habitation, according to the monastery’s response.
The Information-Education Department of the UOC reports today that police followed up on the claims and investigated the monastery, corroborating the brotherhood’s claim that there are no cases of the virus. The police report also stresses that no one with any signs of viral infection were seen, and, additionally, the monastery has its own medical office. Constant disinfection of all the premises is being carried out as well.
Local doctors also confirmed that no one from the monastery or has visited the monastery has contacted them.