Closure of churches exacerbates pandemic, says Greek Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira

Kythira, Greece, February 10, 2021

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The closure of churches has strengthened the COVID pandemic, His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira of the Orthodox Church of Greece believes.

Speaking after Vespers at the Metropolitan Church in Kythira on Sunday, February 7, Met. Seraphim stated that, “we are not in danger from the kissing of holy icons, nor from holy relics, nor from anything that is offered in church.” The closure of churches even in red zones is wrong and contradicts the tradition of the Church, he told the congregation, reports Vima Orthodoxias.

His Eminence specifically pointed to Thessaloniki and Patras, saying that while the traditional celebration and procession in honor of St. Andrew the Apostle were forbidden in November, now the epidemic has “erupted” in these places.

He added, however, that the saints do not take revenge, but rather send messages.

In a talk in December, His Eminence Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou of the Church of Cyprus spoke about how the Liturgy was celebrated in Thessaloniki on the feast of St. Demetrius the Myrrh-Gusher in October, but the hierarchs did not take his relics out for the traditional procession. St. Demetrius himself is said to have then appeared and said: “If they had taken me out the door, just from the myrrh that would have flowed out, the disease would have disappeared.”

Met. Seraphim also said that this age of the coronavirus has revealed the hearts of many in how they question the Lord and the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist.

His Eminence drew the attention of the Prosecutor’s Office last month when he made statements against receiving the COVID vaccines.

Hierarchs in the Church of Greece, and throughout the Orthodox world, disagree on whether to implement COVID measures in churches. His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki has said it is not blasphemous to wear a mask in church, while His Eminence Metropolitan Kosmas of Aetolia and Acarnania emphatically disagrees, saying: “God does not allow you to be infected in church. God does not infect! Let us understand… It is a holy place. ‘The church is Heaven,’ says St. Kosmas of Aetolia. The altar is of God.”

In March, His Eminence Metropolitan Joel of Edessa presented the same view as Met. Seraphim. He argued that venerating icons, kissing the priest’s hand, and being in church do not present a risk a of infection: “The temple is the body of our living God. And this is not just symbolic. In our Church, the figures and symbols enclose a fundamental quality, the Truth, and this is why we observe these symbols. And the truth is that the holy temple as the Body of Christ cannot be a place where diseases can be transmitted. Should we doubt this, then we doubt that there is grace within them. We equate the temple with an ordinary gathering hall.”

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