Patras, Greece, October 12, 2022
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.