Athens, March 27, 2020
Although the Greek Orthodox Church earlier agreed to limit its services to just one-hour Divine Liturgies on Sundays, the state was not content, and on March 16 it banned all services until March 30, in an effort to contain the highly contagious coronavirus.
However, while understanding the need to protect the faithful and all people, the Church also understands the need for the Divine Liturgy to be served.
Thus, the Church has petitioned the Ministry of Education and Religion to make an exemption and allow the Divine Liturgy to be served according to the normal schedule, albeit behind closed doors, reports the Orthodoxia News Agency.
Currently, only emergency services such as funerals are allowed, as well as individual church visits for private prayer.
An exemption for the Divine Liturgy “will greatly facilitate the sacred mission of the Church, which is obliged to pray and supplicate for the health of its flock, but will also contribute decisively to allowing the lay members of the Church to keep their composure,” Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens writes in his letter to Minister Niki Kerameus.
The Greek primate also asked that services be allowed to continue in monasteries, where people live communally anyway, and that funerals be allowed even in churches outside of cemeteries, as not all cemeteries have their own church.
In a related letter, the Holy Synod also requested that individual prayer and visitation of family member’s graves be included in the list of acceptable reasons to break the imposed curfew.
Meanwhile, four lawyers have filed a cancelation and suspension application to the Council of State, seeking the annulment of the decree that, as they believe, unconstitutionally and illegally banned services in the churches and other places of worship, reports Romfea.
The group argues that the temporary ban is in direct conflict with Articles 3, 13, and 25 of the Greek constitution. The freedom of religious conscience is inviolable, the lawyers write in their application, and only the Holy Synod has the right to decide on questions of celebrating the Liturgy and other services.
Their application will be discussed on May 5.