Athens, April 2, 2020
While the Greek Orthodox Church has officially petitioned the state to at least allow clergy to celebrate Holy Week and Paschal services behind closed doors, the Holy Synod decided yesterday to transfer the public celebration of Pascha to the leavetaking of the feast on the night of May 26-27, by which time, God-willing, the churches will have reopened.
The Holy Synod gathered via video conference yesterday, April 1, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, discussing at length the extension of the state quarantine measures until April 11 with the prospect of further amendments.
In the resulting report, published on the official Greek Church site, the Synod urges its flock to “strictly adhere to the instructions of the health authorities” and to not listen to those who urge disobedience, “which at the present time is not justified even in the name of the Christian faith.”
“With a high sense of responsibility,” the Synod therefore accepts the state’s measures and urges everyone to stay home, while at the same time petitioning the state to allow services to be held in the churches and monasteries during Holy Week and on Pascha, even if no parishioners can be present.
Next, noting the terrible situation where Orthodox Christians cannot attend Liturgy and receive Holy Communion on the feast of the Pascha, the Synod urges its flock to increase its prayers and built an altar in their own hearts.
“Make yourself a sacrificial animal, sacrificing your life in the Holy Temple and your attendance at the Divine Eucharist for the sake of all your brothers and sisters,” the statement reads.
And turning to the possibility of celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection publicly, the Synod writes: “We wish and pray that the danger will soon pass, so that we all (the clergy and people) can be honored to celebrate the Bright Resurrection of our Lord together with a festive Sunday service during the leavetaking of the great feast of Pascha, that is, at midnight from Tuesday May 26 to Wednesday May 27, 2020.”
The Synod also reiterated its previous statement that the Divine Eucharist can in no way be a source of sickness or disease.
Further, the hierarchs resolved to donate $163,941 (150,000 euros) to the fight against the coronavirus, with the members of the Synod donating a portion of their salaries and urging the other bishops of the Greek Church to do likewise.
The Synod also thanked Patriarch Bartholomew for the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s donation to the Greek government.
The Synod calls upon all to trust the judgment and decisions of the Holy Synod, and in this vein, no longer allows any cleric, monastic, or church worker to make any statements or appearances in the media concerning the coronavirus. The bishops “urge everyone to calm down and to practice silence and the most intense prayer.”
Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos, who has served as the Synod’s spokesperson to the media in recent years, is the only hierarch authorized to make any statements.
Finally, the Synod calls on all to remember that the feast of Pascha is the “beginning” of an attitude of hopeful anticipation and expectation of eternal life, with the ultimate goal of the abolition of death.