Greek priest convicted of serving Liturgy on Annunciation during pandemic (+VIDEO)

Patras, Greece, October 12, 2022

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The Court of First Instance in Patras, Greece, convicted a well-known priest of the Orthodox Church of Greece on Monday for having celebrated the Divine Liturgy on the feast of Annunciation in 2020 during the COVID pandemic.

All services were banned by order of the Greek state at that time, and other priests also found themselves in trouble with the law.

Protopresbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos, who served in the Church of St. Nicholas in Patras on March 25, 2020, received a suspended sentence of 8 months in prison, reports Vima Orthodoxias.

Fr. Anastasios is also known as an outspoken critic of ecumenism and the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”

Dozens of supporters gathered outside the courthouse on Monday with shouts of “Axios!” (“Worthy!”), greeting him with cheers and applause as he left the building:

In a statement made after receiving the sentence, Fr. Anastasios gave thanks to God for the opportunity to suffer for his priestly ministry, emphasizing that his stance hasn’t changed.

“Today the Greek Judiciary awarded me the highest honor that can be attributed to a priest: It sentenced me to 8 months in prison with suspension because I celebrated the Divine Liturgy on the feast of the Annunciation, on March 25, 2020, i.e. because I fulfilled my priestly and ministerial duty and I tried to be fundamentally consistent towards my conscience, my parishioners, our Church Tradition, and God,” the priest said.

He referred to the words of the holy Apostle Paul: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Phil. 1:29).

“Therefore, thank God for the honor of the conviction!” Fr. Anastasios said, while recognizing that his suspended sentence is but a “minimal nuisance.”

With its decision, Greece became only the second state in Europe over the past 17 centuries, after Enver Hoxha’s Albania, to make it illegal to celebrate the Liturgy on the feast of the Annunciation, Fr. Anastasios said. “Not even the Sultans acted this way…” he lamented.

The protopresbyter continued:

It’s obvious that this decision doesn’t change my views and attitude on the matter in the least and it will surely fall to the higher Greek and European Courts.

As an Orthodox believer, I couldn’t tolerate the state’s ban on celebrating the Divine Liturgy.

As an Orthodox clergyman, I was obliged, by God’s grace and mercy, to officiate in obedience to the Head of the Church Who commands: This do in remembrance of Me, at a point when, in fact, there was no rebuke from my Bishop or the Synod (suspension or deposition).

“Finally, as a Greek citizen, I was and am obliged to the best of my abilities and responsibilities to defend the Greek Constitution and not only not to allow anyone to abolish it but not even to tolerate it,” Fr. Anastasios added, explaining that the constitution protects the right to religious worship.

He also thanked all the clergy, including Fr. Theodore Zisis, and faithful who came to the court to support him.

Several Greek hierarchs, including Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira, Metropolitan Nektarios of Corfu, and Metropolitan Kosmas of Aetolia of blessed memory also got into trouble with the law and the Church for serving during the pandemic. The same happened with Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou in Cyprus.

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m. Cornelia10/17/2022 8:13 pm
Mark Wright: The diocese deals with his priestly status, but the state deals with his crimes. Don't forget, this is not the first time he was in prison. The first time was for murder. My point is that he is not a COVID protest martyr as you and Herman think for some strange reason. And it does make a difference to be in the country you're writing about, as opposed to talking to select people on the phone who support your strange views.
Mark Wright10/16/2022 6:47 pm
m. Cornelia, if he was trouble in his diocese, let his bishop deal with him, let him be suspended or even defrocked (as he has been), but what is he IN JAIL for? Being a troublemaker in your diocese is NOT a jailable offense. That he's been sitting in detention for however long now is persecution, pure and simple, and sorry, the fact that you're in Russia makes no difference. We all have phones that connect us to the entire world.
m. Cornelia10/15/2022 9:20 pm
Herman: Fr. Sergei is notorious in his diocese (I know, because I am acquainted with people from there), and although I am not going to waste precious time looking into the details of his trial, I do know that he was big trouble. If you had been in his monastery, no doubt you would have become one of his denouncers. I will only repeat to you: Be careful about making inflammatory remarks on things that you do not really know about.
Herman10/15/2022 5:11 pm
m. Cornelia: I am glad that they were not persecuted for continuing to hold services and allowing people in. But I still don't know the names of any of these bishops or priests, and although they were not vocal publicly, I'm glad to hear they disobeyed regardless. Although my point really is this - we needed and still need more VOCAL and PUBLIC witnesses to the Faith, such as our own Fr Peter Heers, who tirelessly has been a steadfast example of Orthodoxy for all of us. As for Fr Sergei: he was indicted on 3 counts - "arbitrariness", "violation of the right to freedom of religion", and "incitement to suicide." That last one has to do with a video that was posted on Youtube of a sermon he gave, in which he spoke about a nun named St Helen, of the Diveyevo Monastery of St Seraphim of Sarov. St Seraphim gave a blessing to her to die in the place of her brother, and so Fr Sergei asked the congregation if they were willing to die for the sake of the young Russian generation. It was clearly not an "incitement to suicide." The Russian military asks young people if they are ready to die for their country, is that also an "incitement to suicide"? So what was this really about? He was putting out sermons saying the pandemic is fake, and that the Jews are behind it, the Zionists are making their move to put Russians into electronically controlled camps, etc. He was saying that Patriarch Kirill is working with them, and with Putin. So, that's obviously what this is all about. Part of the charges include, from what I can tell, "violation of freedom of religion" his statements against "Jews, Muslims, and Catholics"... so it's pretty clear this was a witch hunt, false charges applied to shut him up and make an example out of him to everyone else. The government literally threw him in prison for 3 1/2 years because of things he said in his sermons. He didn't actually do anything. This is insane.
m. Cornelia10/15/2022 10:36 am
Brother Herman: You are living in a different world, but we are in Russia and know how it was and is here. Yes, the churches were closed, but no one persecuted any of the many priests who let people in anyway. Russia is different from the US, and even our vaccine was different. You can't judge Russia by your own experience in your country. And the priest you named, Fr. Sergei Romanov, was not defrocked for his statements about vaccines. He is a man who should never have been ordained according to the canons, since he had done time for murder. And his "monastery" is still under investigation for child abuse. He is a rather odious character. But enough about him. My point is, you can't just spout out judgements and make vast generalizations like you're doing without knowing what's really going on. Be aware, we will answer before God for every word we've said.
Herman10/15/2022 5:12 am
Jacob: I don't understand. Where were my comments? I don't leave comments on every article here, you know. Yes, he is a brave priest, and for your information I am very much against the schismatic OCU organization created by the US State Dept in Ukraine. Myron: thank you. I am glad to hear that. There were orders from the Patriarchate to obey lockdown orders, and even to not speak openly against the vaccines. If the bishop was "supportive" he must have done so tacitly. But there are nearly 400 bishops in Russia. I don't recall any of them speaking out and refusing to obey, and continuing to hold services against the orders of the government. Again, maybe there was one? One or two out of 400? This article alone names three Greek bishops who continued to hold services. That's three out of maybe 100 Greek bishops? But there was definitely at least one Russian priest, Fr Sergei Romanov, who was in fact prosecuted. He is sitting in prison now serving a 3 1/2 year sentence, as I write this comment - but worse than that, he was actually excommunicated by the Patriarchate. Fr Anastasios in Greece was prosecuted but received a suspended sentence and it appears that he didn't have to spend a single night in jail, and he's still a priest.
Jacob10/14/2022 1:02 pm
Herman: This just happens to be the same Greek priest who was not afraid to speak out against the creation of the OCU! Yes, a brave priest! Where were your compliments then?
Aleksandar10/13/2022 9:31 pm
Слава Богу, че има такива достойни свещеници!
Myron Platte10/13/2022 4:49 pm
Herman, I know of one Russian parish that served and allowed in parishioners even in defiance of their bishop’s orders. The Trinity Saint Sergius Lavra continued to serve, but there where police keeping people from coming in. I know of another parish that continued to serve daily, although I believe their bishop was supportive. The difference is that the Russian priests aren’t making headlines, because they’re not being prosecuted for it.
Rdr Daniel10/12/2022 8:26 pm
Herman10/12/2022 5:44 pm
Jason: interesting comment. I didn't say "all Greek priests" but just praised this particular priest for his steadfast dedication to Orthodoxy. I can't recall any Russian priests that defied the government mandates except for Fr Sergei Romanov. Maybe there was another one. As for "Russophobia" - я говорю по-русски и являюсь членом РПЦЗ. Я люблю Россию, но еще больше люблю Православную Церковь.
Jason10/12/2022 1:50 pm
Herman: You have an interesting but rather transparent russophobia. As if all the "Russian" priests are cowardly, and all the Greek priests are brave. Oversimplification on steroids. Are you simple, or do you think everyone around you is?
Herman10/12/2022 1:30 pm
If only the Russian priests had been as brave as Protopresbyter Anastasios. Axios!
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