Recent statements on COVID and vaccines from Orthodox hierarchs and synods

America, Australia, Cyprus, September 23, 2021

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As the COVID pandemic continues throughout the world, Orthodox hierarchs and Synods throughout the world have had to address how to handle government restrictions and answer questions from the faithful about the various COVID vaccines available.


  • COVID cases have been on the rise in America since late June, according to the World Health Organization. On June 14 there were 79,358 confirmed cases, but on September 13 there were 1,104,143. There have been 42,034,347 confirmed cases overall and 671,728 deaths. 388,936,652 vaccine doses have been administered. According to, COVID is now deadlier in the U.S. than the 1918 Spanish flu.

On September 16, the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Patriarchate of Constantinople) issued a communique in which it emphasized that the Church not only permits, but encourages the vaccination of the faithful, including receiving approved COVID vaccines.

There are no grounds for religious exemption, the GOA hierarchs state, and thus the Synod prohibits its clergy from writing letters of exemption for the faithful:

Although some may be exempt from the vaccination for clear medical reasons, there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for Her faithful from any vaccination for religious reasons, including the coronavirus vaccine. For this reason, letters of exemption for the vaccination against the coronavirus for religious purposes issued by priests of the Archdiocese of America have no validity, and furthermore, no clergy are to issue such religious exemption letters for any reason.

The Synod urges all the listen to “competent medical authorities, and to avoid the false narratives utterly unfounded in science and perpetrated on the Church by those who have succumbed to the disinformation and conspiracy theories that are widely available on social media sites.”

Also in America, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, told RIA-Novosti that the Church does not give advice about vaccinations, leaving it up to everyone’s free choice.

However, “People should not be afraid of vaccination,” he said, noting that he himself has already been vaccinated.


  • Cases in Australia have also been on the rise since June. On June 21, there were 134 confirmed cases, but by September 13, the number had risen to 12,087, with 88,710 confirmed cases overall and 1,178 deaths. 22,669,372 vaccine doses have been administered. There are 766 new cases in Victoria today, rising above the peak of the second wave, reports 9 News Australia.

Also in ROCOR, His Grace Bishop George of Cranberra, who is Met. Hilarion’s vicar in Australia, recently addressed an open letter to the Premier of New South Wales and the Premier of Victoria about legislation that concerns him as a hierarch.

While in an earlier letter to his flock, he stated that he cannot condone taking any vaccine that has any connection to the HEK 293 cells (though he can understand if people get vaccinated, giving the conflicting voices about it even within the Church and the great pressure from the state and society to receive it), in his letter to state officials, he focuses on the idea of vaccine passports that would prohibit unvaccinated parishioners from coming to church.

“Churches have a responsibility to minister to all” and therefore “cannot accept polarization of the faithful,” His Grace writes. The introduction of vaccine passports would “impact destructively” on both Church life and the life of society. To admit just one group of people based on such criteria “goes against the very nature of the Church, which embraces all,” the hierarch states.

The vaccine passports, to be implemented in New South Wales and Victoria next month, will create an “unethical two-tiered society,” and such measures are “divisive, coercive, and discriminatory,” he emphasizes.

Also in Australia, Archbishop Makarios (Patriarchate of Constantinople) issued an encyclical a few days later in which he also condemns the discrimination that would arise from vaccine passports, as well as taking vaccines that have any connection to the HEK 293 cells, though he firmly supports receiving COVID vaccines that have no such connection.

The pandemic has caused global unrest and the death of millions, and “imposed incalculable consequences” upon every area of life. And restrictions on the life of the Church have led to conflicts between the Church and state, he begins.

And the relevant issues are often discussed by “those who lack the theological competency and scientific knowledge,” he laments. The Archbishop thus denounces the idea that illnesses cannot be transmitted in church as “unfounded” and “dangerous.”

Therefore, he calls upon all clergy to remember that whatever they say on the matter will inevitably be perceived as the voice of the Church, and thus great precaution and precision is needed.

As for vaccinations, this is primarily a medical issue, he writes, although there can be times when a hierarch must speak to an ethical concern. In this regard, he reminds of the letter of protest he authored with the Catholic and Anglican Archbishops of Sydney “in relation to the provision of certain vaccines, whose production is based on cell linings of aborted embryos.”

However, “there is no spiritual, ecclesial, or canonical issue” with taking a vaccine that is “not produced with the cell linings of dead embryos,” he continues, and the Archbishop himself has been vaccinated against COVID and encourages his flock to do the same.

And regarding the vaccine passports to be introduced in Victoria, he writes:

Certainly, it is an inalienable right of every person to worship God in Church, a right which is even more applicable for us Orthodox Christians, who believe in the Holy Gospel, which emphatically stresses freedom and equality. Personally, I will never agree with a measure which divides the faithful between vaccinated and non-vaccinated. The doors of our Churches will be open for all. I do not accept that there will be people who wish to come to Church and we will not allow them. On this most sensitive issue, I have already begun, since, ten days ago, talks with our leaders and certain religious heads of our country.

His Grace Bishop Siluan of Australia and New Zealand (Serbian Church) issued an “archpastoral reflection” on the COVID crisis earlier this month, lamenting that “Man has become a virus to his fellow man in this ever-changing world and dystopian looking society” brought about by the pandemic.

The bishop refers to the story of one of his parishioners who has become an outcast at work, “treated with contempt and discrimination,” for not being vaccinated.

Orthodoxy teaches that man is free, and so he must have the choice to be vaccinated or not based on informed consent, His Grace writes, also referring to the “moral issue accepting vaccines that have been developed from cell lines that were obtained from tissues harvested from aborted fetuses.”

He also strongly opposes the prospect of vaccine passports, which would create a “two-tiered society” and divide families and friends.

“We cannot accept the polarisation of the faithful, it goes against the very nature of the Church and we will not be implementing this system in our churches,” he writes.


  • Unlike in America and Australia, cases in Cyprus have been falling after a surge in late June and July. On July 12, there were 6,915 confirmed cases, but only 1,032 on September 13. There have been 119,230 cases overall, 548 deaths, and 1,141,805 vaccine doses administered.

In Cyprus, His Eminence Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou, who has been the most vocal against COVID restrictions and the mRNA and HEK-connected vaccines, himself was sick with COVID in the last two weeks of August.

After his recovery, he stated that his stance on COVID vaccines has not changed, and explained that he had “asked the Panagia to send [him] the coronavirus as a means of humility.”

At its session on September 9, the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus called on the clergy and faithful to obey the government’s anti-COVID measures, and recommended that all be vaccinated.

Following the session, Met. Neophytos issued his own statement, noting that despite his disagreement, he will not publicly cast doubt on the Synod’s decisions. He also cautioned not to divide people into the vaccinated and unvaccinated, and suggested to the Cypriot President that medications against COVID be made available in the country.

Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus also announced that any clergy who do not accept the Synod’s position, who continue to encourage people not to get vaccinated, will not receive their salary. And if any bishop speaks against vaccination, the Archbishop suggested that he should be expelled from the Holy Synod.

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sherlock_holmes9/27/2021 9:51 pm
2 fully vaccinated people have just passed away in an Intensive Care Unit. It could have been much worse if they weren't vaccinated ! PS: If the news ( message ) is too sad, no need to pass.
sherlock_holmes9/24/2021 8:30 pm
Motto: " He said to him, if they don't listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead ! Luke 16:31 "...The further away from our Lord and his Church, the harsher the attitude and statements... mRNA and HEK-connected vaccines, cj Hopkins or Hopkins cj.
ACatharina9/24/2021 3:49 pm
Beloved and respected Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus, are you with your pastors and their flocks or against them? They are YOUR family, brothers and children and people whom Christ entrusted to your care. Don't treat them like disobedient dogs, just because the government does! Forgive my language.
Andrew9/24/2021 8:51 am
Thank God for the stance of Bishop George of Cranberra, Bishop Siluan of New Zealand, and Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou. To these three Bishops I proclaim: Axios! Axios! Axios!
Basil Hill-Zeck9/24/2021 1:46 am
May God reward Hierarchs like Met. Neophytos, Abp. Makarios, Bp. Siluan, & Bp. George, who protect their Flocks & defend human dignity & freedom! Glory to God for giving us such wonderful Archpastors!
Antiochene Son9/23/2021 7:01 pm
"My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation." James 3:1
sherlock_holmes9/23/2021 6:58 pm
Motto: The silent scream ! Before I thought we can apply it to the unborn babies or with some extension to the saints of the prisons...
Mikhail9/23/2021 6:05 pm
Thank God for the stance of Bishop George of Cranberra, Bishop Siluan of New Zealand, and Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou. To these three Bishops I proclaim: Axios! Axios! Axios!
Ninos9/23/2021 5:17 pm
Well done archbishop. You talk about not dividing and then you say "if any bishop speaks against vaccination, the Archbishop suggest that he should be expelled from the Holy Synod"
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