Patriarch Kirill calls on faithful not to go to church

Moscow, March 30, 2020     

Last week, St. Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov announced a ban on going to church during this week, though the Legal Department of the Russian Church responded that the constitution does not provide him with such authority.

His Grace Bishop Nazary of Kronstadt, the abbot of the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg, stated that the monastery will not shut its doors to the faithful, though emphasizing that the monastery will faithfully follow the directives of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Now the Patriarchate, through its primate, is calling on the faithful not to attend Church services in the coming days.

In his homily following the Divine Liturgy in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral on the 4th Sunday of Great Lent yesterday, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia called upon the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church to refrain from attending Church services due to the coronavirus.

“I call upon you, my dear ones, to refrain from going to church in the coming days, until there is a special Patriarchal blessing,” the Patriarch said, though clergy will continue to celebrate the services.

The full text of his homily (in Russian) is available on the official site of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sopyanin had previously urged people not to go to church, though he stopped short of imposing an official ban, and President Vladimir Putin declared March 30-April 3 a non-working week for the entire country. Sopyanin subsequently imposed a city-wide quarantine as cases of the coronavirus exceeded 1,000 in Moscow over the weekend.

After commenting upon the ascetic heights described in St. John Climacus’ Ladder of Divine Ascent and exemplified in the life of St. Mary of Egypt, Pat. Kirill turned to the theme of the coronavirus, noting that he had received a letter from an Orthodox woman in Italy that made a great impression upon him as she described how, like residents of Russia today, residents of Italy also did not think the virus was a serious threat just a few weeks ago and they continued to live as usual. Now, however, as is well known, the situation has become very serious in Italy.

“The Church calls today, before there are victims in our families, to commit ourselves to strictly following all the regulations coming from the sanitary authorities in Russia,” His Holiness continued.

As have many hierarchs throughout the Orthodox world, the Patriarch then pointed to the life of St. Mary of Egypt as an example that salvation is possible even without going to church, calling upon his flock to turn their homes into a desert.

“Let us take upon ourselves the task of not leaving our homes, as Mary of Egypt took upon herself the task of not leaving the desert. And she was probably hungry and thirsty, too!” Pat. Kirill preached, “Although in modern cities it is possible to get both food and drink without leaving their desert.”

“This is how we should live now,” the Patriarch continued, calling on the flock to ignore any priests who say otherwise. “Listen to what the Patriarch has told you today.”

It is no coincidence that this time of quarantine coincides with the upcoming celebrations of St. Mary of Egypt, Pat. Kirill believes. “Nothing is accidental with God,” he said.

“Mary fought the devil, who afflicted human souls, and today we must fight the forces of evil that afflict our physical bodies, and through this, our souls,” the Russian primate preached.

“Therefore, I call upon you, my dear ones, to refrain from going to church in the coming days, until there is a special Patriarchal blessing, and if someone tells you something, remind them of the example of Mary of Egypt,” Pat. Kirill said, continuing:

We have no other answer, because we love our churches. For 51 years I have been preaching from the pulpits, encouraging people to come to church and overcome the inclination of their own evil will and external circumstances. I have dedicated my entire life to this call! I hope you understand how difficult it is for me to say today: Refrain from going to church; and I probably would never have said this if it weren't for the amazing, saving example of St. Mary of Egypt, who during this very week is being glorified by the Church as a great ascetic, who even during her earthly life received the angelic nature.

“Through her prayers, may the Lord protect us all from infections and diseases… We believe that even today the Lord calls us to follow her path even in modern metropolises,” the Patriarch concluded.

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Wytske Benschop4/8/2022 11:32 pm
To the leader of the Orthodox church in Russia, God does not agree with the war in Oekraïn. God is a loving,caring holy spirit that gives life to human beings. He never wants to destroy innocent people. Never would accept the bombing of a railway station where hundreds of refugees are gathered to flee the war. This is not right and if you have a heart and a brain that is still working you would know this is so wrong ! You should bring light into the world ,but brought darkness. Have you killed a man ? A woman ? A child ? You do cooperate and bless a killer of thousends and thousends ,even of your own people. Maybe from your own church ? Did you use their lives Do you make use of the suffering of their families? Do you enjoy the chaos you are making in the whole of Europe ? Why van Russian leaders not focus on their own big country?. Why not look after ,nurture their own people and the land and towns.ook after the flowers ,the churches ,the houses. The museums , the forests ,everything ! Life could be so beautifull ! Dont you know Patriarch Kirill. You could stop this war. Just be onnest for one time ? Take a dea human and say to Putin come brother we are going to stop the bloodshedding ,the suffering ! We are going to become human again the way we once where. Come now, stop sshh be quiet and pray and stop this senseless war before it is to late.
Mikhail3/31/2020 4:31 pm
Dear Editor: I understand what he said. However, he is using the same talking points that the jurisdictions in the U.S. are using to justify the closure of Churches. He should have declared that the elderly and immune compromised think very clearly before making a decision to attend. Otherwise, I saw no mention of the importance of the Liturgy and the Holy Mysteries during times of great crisis. To make a blanket statement that the people should not attend Liturgy, was very out of character and highly disappointing.
Editor3/31/2020 1:32 pm
Mikhail: Please note that there is a difference here. Neither the Patriarch or the civil authorities have closed any churches. We hope that doesn't happen, but currently, people are going to church, services are being conducted. This is simply a call to people consciences that they do their part in dealing with the epidemic.
Mikhail3/31/2020 4:06 am
This news is very sad. He has decided to follow Bartholomew and many others. He has even used the same talking points in an effort to justify it (St Mary of Egypt). Lord have mercy! Now we look to Bulgaria and Georgia and Serbia and others who are not shutting the people out of Liturgy at time when they need the holy Mysteries the most!
John3/30/2020 11:35 pm
Forgive me, Your Holiness, but the assertion that the life of St Mary is a call to salvation outside Church attendance or a parable of this pandemic situation is simply nonsense. I say this out of great love for you, for God, for His Holy Church and for His Saint. We cannot slander, politicise or degrade St Mary's great life, even if we are patriarchs, and as a fellow Orthodox, I call your attention to this error in the manner prescribed by our Faith. None of the Church Fathers has ever offered such a "unique" interpretation of St Mary's life: this is evident even elsewhere on this website, where homilies on her are written by other great saints. Rather, even within the very account of her life that we read in the Services, St Sophronios makes it clear that St Mary offers us an image of how powerful true repentance is: that it can overcome any level of sinful life or sin, that it is even more acceptable to God than great ascesis (as in St Zosimas's case) and that, through it, one can fully depend on Christ for all things, even an understanding of His Word and Truth, if unlettered. Moreover, the fact that St Mary bows and Confesses to a priest (St Zosimas) despite her great holiness AND asks for Communion as her last request (and by all such actions, follows solely the Orthodox Church's traditions and none other), tells us clearly that salvation cannot be attained--even for one who levitates and walks on water--without attending the Orthodox Church and taking part in its sacraments. As far as the pandemic, it seems either one of two things is happening here: Either Your Holiness is trying, in your love for your flock, to spare us of something worse that you feel, or perhaps know, is connected with this pandemic and Church attendance (say, government crackdowns instigated by enemies of the Church) or you (sadly) or you truly believe what you are saying here. If the former, we thank you and pray for you. If the latter, we must pray for God to forgive and enlighten you. For if it is the latter, while we the faithful should certainly obey your words, to the extent they do not violate our faith, it is clear that they amount to demanding we separate ourselves from Christ's Bride, and that borders on a great sin. Indeed, realizing this, it should considered that Christ may judge this as sin and, if so, see your call for us to refrain from attendance--especially at this time, when we are under attack--as harming His "little ones". Furthermore, such a sin would fall on the heads of you and your hierarchs, not on ours. Therefore, in Christ's Holy Name, I beg you, Your Holiness, please repent of these words! Nonetheless, if I am mistaken, please forgive me and may God forgive me.
Justin3/30/2020 9:49 pm
God keep forever in his flock the holy hierarch Kirill, our father in the faith.
Alex3/30/2020 7:31 pm
Words of wisdom from the head of the worlds largest Orthodox Church!
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