Cyprus bans faithful from church during Christmas season, Metropolitan of Morphou rejects new measures

Nicosia, December 10, 2020

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After being locked out of Church services during the Paschal season, the Orthodox faithful of Cyprus will not be able to celebrate the Great Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in church either, as new, stricter anti-COVID measures were adopted at a recent extraordinary session of the Council of Ministers under the chairmanship of President Nikos Anastasiadis, reports Romfea.

In particular, among other things, the Council decided that religious services will be held without the presence of the faithful. The new measures will go into effect tomorrow and continue until December 31, meaning the faithful will not be able to attend the services for the Nativity of Christ, which has caused an uproar from Cypriot clergy and believers.

The Holy Synod of the Cypriot Church will convene next Tuesday to examine the new measures, Archbishop Chrysostomos said on Cypriot television today. In the meantime, he expects the hierarchs to obey the governmental measures. He also said he spoke with His Eminence Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou, who reacted strongly to the government measures, but was unable to persuade him.

Met. Neophytos issued a statement, saying: “In the metropolitan area of Morphou, we inform, as the local Metropolitan, that our holy churches will continue their operation and will not be closed in any way.” The services and Sacraments will be celebrated as usual, the Metropolitan declared.

“If the government establishes laws for the protection, as it considers, of the bodily health of the citizens, the Orthodox Church has had its own sacred Tradition and its own laws and sacred rules for 2,000 years, to ensure and maintain the psychosomatic health of the faithful,” he explained.

Other hierarchs have also spoken out. His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos addressed a letter to President Anastasiadis in response to the new measures, calling on him to hear the cry of agony of the people and to respect the sacred traditions of the Church.

“In view of the great salvific events of the Nativity, we urge you to define new measures, which will serve the health protocols, but also satisfy the spiritual need of Christians to participate in the Christmas holidays by going to church and participating in the Sacrament of the Eucharist,” Met. Isaiah writes.

Speaking on Cypriot television, Metropolitan George of Paphos called on the government to reconsider these new excessive measures, noting that the people are faithful and want to go to church during the holidays. There were plans in place to hold 2 or 3 services on Nativity, to accommodate the faithful without crowding, but now “everything is overthrown,” he said.

Met. George said they will not ask the people not to listen to the government, but will ask the government to listen to the people.

The government’s restrictive measures also garnered a response from Mr. Christos Oikonomou, President of the Department of Theology of the University of Nicosia, former Dean and President of the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki. Statements from the Minister of Health and other infectious disease specialists are “unacceptable” and “deliberately and ostentatiously provoke the sensibilities of the Orthodox Christian people of Cyprus,” he said on Cypriot television.

Banning the people from celebrating the Nativity in church “is a direct violation of religious freedom and human rights,” Oikonomou said.

“We consider this misguided decision to be a direct challenge from a democratic government where 96% of the Cypriot people are Orthodox Christians,” stated the theologian.

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Stephen12/11/2020 3:44 am
Axios! Axios! Axios! May the Lord bless us with the same courage and love for Him and His Church that His Eminence has shown. A true shepherd to lead us during these trials.
Stan Minor12/10/2020 7:15 pm
AXIOS!! Also, I would say that the lede is buried here. His Eminence's statement should be at the very top.
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