Slovak Church protests invasive COVID restrictions

Prešov, Slovakia, March 31, 2021

Metropolitan Rastislav of Prešov. Photo: Metropolitan Rastislav of Prešov. Photo:     

COVID restrictions that are implemented without any communication with churches and religious groups but which significantly interfere with the liturgical and pastoral life of those groups are “inadequate and one-sided,” believe the hierarchs of the Orthodox Church in Slovakia and the leaders of many other religious communities.

“The Orthodox Church in Slovakia takes the necessity of the equal provision of spiritual and material needs of man for granted,” state His Beatitude Metropolitan Rastislav of Prešov and His Eminence Archbishop Juraj of Michalovce and Košice in a press release dated March 24.

The hierarchs thus respond to the initiative of Ján Figel, the former European Commissioner and European Commission Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion Outside the EU, who recently filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor’s Office about the ban on public worship and also appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

A state of emergency was declared again in Slovakia on October 1. It was then extended by 40 days from December 30, by another 40 from February 8, and by another 40 days as of March 20. A detailed description of COVID measures in Slovakia can be found at the IOM Migration Information Centre.

“We express our support for the submission of former European Commissioner Ján Figel … in connection with government regulations that make it practically impossible not only to perform public worship, but also individual pastoral services. We share the view that they are an undue interference by public authority in religious life,” state Met. Rastislav and Abp. Juraj.

The hierarchs do not deny the state its right to issue decrees and regulations, but it needs to show more respect for the religious life of its citizens:

However, we want to emphasize that Christian churches and religious societies in Slovakia have been able to bear witness, even in the difficult times we are experiencing, that they are able and willing, not out of fear of death, but on the contrary, out of respect for life, to lead their priests and believers to behave responsibly and sacrificially. It would therefore be right if the state power showed at least as much respect and reverence towards the churches as the churches have shown understanding towards it so far.

The hierarchs made a similar statement a year ago, emphasizing the Church’s obligation to provide spiritual care. Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini threatened to sanction the Church at that time if it did not cancel its services.

“It is necessary to emphasize for all those who fear that they could get infected at joint Divine services in kissing the holy icons or drinking from a common cup that Communion has never been, is not, and never will be a cause of sickness and death, but on the contrary—it is the source of new life in Christ, of the remission of sins, and of the healing of soul and body,” Met. Rastislav and Abp. Juraj stated last year.

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Herman4/1/2021 6:40 pm
Fei Wu: No, you do not need to get vaccinated, not for your health, or for normal life. You don't need it at all, no one does. If your church is reopening and you can go there, just do that. These vaccines are extremely dangerous, they are produced unethically, and may cause serious problems for your health if you take it. Don't let the government pressure you into taking a drug that you don't need. May God be with you.
Fei Yu(Mainland China)4/1/2021 4:23 pm
@Sandor Bronn Thank you for point out my mistake.As you said,this is not a complait,but our legitimate rights and interests. I feel so sad that no Christian in China today has dared to express this appeal,because we can only obey the decrees and regulations of the government,not Lord's orders:"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together".If we protest like the hierarchs of the Orthodox Church in Slovakia, we'll be imprisoned. May God have mercy on us!In addition,in China,if you have diagnosed the COVID,you will be discriminated against.People will see you as the devil,which makes it impossible for you to go out, not to mention church.It may not happen abroad, but it is common in China.Therefore,we need to be vaccinated, both for our own health and for normal life.The good news is that we can resume worship from this April and church will reopen in this Sunday! Anaxios!
Jason4/1/2021 9:01 am
Henry Law: You sense of humor has made my day.
Henry Law3/31/2021 9:56 pm
Here in Sweden, the coronavirus becomes especially virulent in church buildings on Sundays. We can cram ourselves into buses, trains and trams as much as we like, and in shops there number of visitors seems to be roughly one per square metre (which allows a 2 metre specification) but in churches, the number is 8, no matter how big the building. Masses have been forbidden in Jonköping and Stockholm under threat of a hefty fine, and the bishop (Cardinal) has said nothing in public about this. As far as I know there has been no crackdown on Friday worshippers. Since Sweden is one of the world's leading upholder of human rights, perhaps we should be imposing sanctions on ourselves and appealing to the United Nations and European Court of Human Rights on the basis that this is a breach of the right to worship. In the meantime, the obvious solution is to hold church services on buses and trains.
Sandor Bronn3/31/2021 7:32 pm
@Fei Yu In my humble opinion, you are incorrectly indicating legitimate Church grievances regarding restrictions as 'complaints'. Moreover, people in Europe are not accustomed to being told my the State that they essentially cannot go to Church to worship God. I am sorry to hear that this is otherwise in your country, this is lamentable. In both cases, I pray for God's mercy on our Orthodox brethren. Also, I'd like to point out: vaccination is no guarantee that either one will not become ill from "COVID" (I am still awaiting actual scientific evidence of the existence of said virus; somehow, no one gets ill from influenza anymore, for one); nor, that the State will allow those who have agreed to have the test vaccine (vaccines typically require three or more years of testing, and not three weeks) applied to attend worship services, if these services, indeed, are allowed at all. Up until last year, it was a hallmark of advanced societies to have Church absolutely separated from the State. Governments in general have abrogated emergency powers to themselves over an illness in which there is a 97-99% recovery rate, and therefore not actually a 'pandemic' as the WHO has labelled it. There is a healthy tradition of questioning the wisdom of State decisions in the West, and is part of the culture here. Many of us VERY MUCH question the wisdom of many government decision in regard to this so-called pandemic. It seems a gross overreach of State power, if one takes a deep breath and a step back to see this all in context, rather than in the neurotic framing of daily panicky news headlines and government arbitrary diktats. There is no actual LAW governing social behavior, etc. during this 'pandemic', only emergency edicts which do not have the force of law. Panic reactions =/= proper government administration. May God bless you and yours, and have mercy on all of us.
Fei Yu(Mainland China)3/31/2021 2:53 pm
They're actually happy.What else can they complain about? If it is in China, as long as the government staff say "NO!", we must close the church. There is no choice.There is no room for protest. You can only get vaccinated and wait for the church reopen.
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