Athens, January 5, 2021
Despite the Greek Church’s strong protest yesterday, Greek authorities have reiterated that churches must remain closed on the feast of Theophany.
Despite its initial decision that churches would be open to a limited number of faithful for Nativity, New Year’s, and Theophany, the government announced on Saturday that the feast of Theophany and the Great Blessing of the Waters will be served by the clergy in closed churches without any parishioners.
According to authorities, the Church of Greece “should realize the critical importance of the current crisis for society, as it has done so far.” The Church endured a complete lockdown earlier this year during the Lenten and Paschal seasons.
Although the government initially agreed that a limited number of faithful could attend Theophany services, “the need not to jeopardize the stable pace of the fight against the coronavirus, especially in view of the reopening of schools, mandated a return to the previous regime of restrictions—Liturgy will be served behind closed doors on Theophany, without the faithful,” the authorities said, reports Romfea.
The Church may not agree with the new measures, “but the law cannot be applied at will so that anyone who disagrees can ignore it,” the government statement underlines.
However, according to Metropolitan Athenagoras of Ilium, the press secretary of the Holy Synod, the Church cannot accept the state’s new order. The previous measures had been reached as an agreement between the Church and state, and the state should keep its word.
When asked how the Church would react if the police fined hierarchs for opening their churches on Theophany, Met. Athenagoras replied that “the police will do their job, and we will do ours.”
He also said the Church would pay any fines imposed upon clergy.
At the end of his statement, the Metropolitan stressed that the issue of celebrating Theophany has become a “red line” for the Church.
In its own statement, the Synod of the Church of Crete, a semi-autonomous Church within the Patriarchate of Constantinople, also said that it could not accept the Church’s new measures, but would open its churches on Theophany for a limited number of faithful.
Update, 1/5/21, 2:25 PM: The Holy Synod has sent an encylical to all the Metropolises, instructing them to open the churches on Theophany, with up to 25 parishioners per church, and up to 50 in each cathedral. All other sanitary measures are to be followed as well.