The law of God is above the law of the state, says Metropolitan of Morphou, refusing to accept order to close churches

Morphou, Cyprus, December 14, 2020

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His Eminence Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou explained in his Sunday sermon why he is unwilling to close the churches in his Metropolis despite the latest order from the state that all churches throughout the country be closed.

“The law of God is above the law of the state,” he said. According to the latest order, all Church services are to be held without any of the faithful until December 31.

Met. Neophytos announced to his flock last week: “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 police announced that for the time being, the Metropolitan does not seem to have broken the law with his encyclical.

“There is the law of the state that says that services should be held but without believers. I am breaking the law because I take on your responsibility. I said it, I wrote it and I repeat it. Why am I doing this? Not for bravado and pseudo-heroism, as one of our respected people said” the Metropolitan said in his homily on Sunday, referring to Archbishop Chrysostomos, the primate of the Cypriot Church.

The Archbishop said over the weekend that the Church is not above the state and he expects all hierarchs to obey the government’s order until the Holy Synod is able to formulate an official response. The Holy Synod will meet tomorrow to discuss the matter.

However, “We are doing this because above the law of the state there is the law of the Holy Gospel,” Met. Neophytos emphasized.

“The Gospel, that is, the law of God, is above the law of the state and all throughout these months, I have felt that there is a conflict of duties within me. The law of the state must be observed by the bishop and apply it, but when the law of the Holy Gospel says something else, which should the bishop and you Orthodox believers apply?” the Cypriot hierarch asked.

“And if you have any right, any excuse, the bishop does not. That is why I proposed to apply the law of the Gospel which says: Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. This is what Christ says. So I apply the law of Christ, Who is my boss. That is why I said I take the responsibility for all of you who follow this law of the Holy Gospel,” His Eminence explained.

Other Cypriot hierarchs have also spoken out against the new measures, although they have not taken the same stance as the Metropolitan of Morphou.

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. 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.

His Eminence Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos has described the new measures as “a great shock” and “very extreme and unnecessary.” Only those who fight against Christ and the Church can rejoice in the closing of the churches, he said, adding that he will propose at tomorrow’s Synod meeting that the Church petition to have the churches open at least on Sundays and the feast of the Nativity.

For his part, His Eminence Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol said that the Holy Synod will try to achieve the best outcome—that the faithful not be deprived of the services and the ability to receive Holy Communion during the holy days of the feast of the Nativity.

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Mary1/7/2021 4:19 pm
Forgive me, but thank God in heaven for this bishop saying this! I was beginning to think that either the Church had lost faith entirely, or I was somehow misunderstanding everything that I was taught when I converted and that I read in the gospel narratives. I have struggled with the way most churches in the US (and really, most of the world, but the US effects me personally at this time) have reacted to this pandemic situation. It seems so contrary to the teaching of our Lord, such as 'For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it' (Lk 9:24) and 'do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.' (Mt 10:28). I was not Orthodox a full year when suddenly the narrative changed from trying to convince Orthodox Christians to attend church more, to telling Orthodox Christians who are scared NOT to come to church. It was a devistating blow to so many, and now, even though many of the bishops and diocesan leaders of OCA have realized the consequences of their actions, they will not admit that they were wrong. Now that some of us can attend church in some capacity, we have trouble approaching the chalice with this pain in our hearts. We are chastised and called 'disobedient' when we ask questions, or choose to attend a ROCOR parish where the service is about worshipping GOD and not worshipping COVID-19 regulations. I know that there are some who are spiritually strong enough to pray at home for a few weeks. I know there are others, especially in America, who want to turn this into a political crusade about their American 'right' to go take communion. I am neither strong enough to stay out of despondency without church, nor under any delusional idea that I am worthy or have some right to partake in Holy communion. I am not my Patron Saint, Mary of Egypt, who repented in the desert forty years without the eucharist, and I resent all of the narratives during Lent that used her as an example. I am not a desert ascetic. I am a wife, mother, and a weak and sinful convert whose whole worldview has changed since converting to Orthodox Christianity, and my spiritual health has been very poor throughout this. I do doubted my convictions for attending a local ROCOR parish while my OCA parish had locked its doors that I had a priest tell me to stop confessing that I had sinned in disobedience for attending Divine Services against the order of my bishop. It's been madness. I'm not a great saint who can stand against the world and be the lone voice reminding everyone what Christ taught, because I am not entirely certain I understand it correctly. I'm just a sinner who needs church, and fellowship, and most importantly, the eucharist. And the idea that so many leaders in the Orthodox Church are willing to allow civil authorities to close churches in the name of safety, to tell the faithful that the body and blood of Christ can spread germs through a spoon (it cannot, and of this I am certain), to cast a shadow of doubt over our faith, and to call us unfaithful and disobedient for trying to do what we know in our hearts is the narrow path to Life, absolutely devistates me. I hope and pray that I may someday have the faith to say and feel this without feeling passionate anger and without doubting myself. For now, I just want to thank this bishop for making it clear that there is someone within the Church, somewhere in this world, who truly believes that God comes before ANYTHING of this world, including our jobs, and our freedom, and the slight possibility of sickness, legal persecution, or even death; and the way for us to experience this is in Church. 'He who endures to the end will be saved' (Mt 24:13). May the Lord keep us, have mercy on us, and forgive us all for the confusion and passions we've all caused and doubtlessly struggled with in these crazy times. In Christ, Mary
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