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Orthodox Church demands that Greece ease restrictions on in-person worship

Orthodox Church demands that Greece ease restrictions on in-person worship

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III (C) attends a Christmas service according to the Eastern Orthodox calendar, in the Church of Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, January 6, 2016. | (Photo: Reuters/Ammar Awad)

The Greek Orthodox Church has demanded that Greece ease restrictions on in-person worship as the European nation begins to reopen following a coronavirus shutdown.

While Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis plans to lift certain restrictions enacted in March to curb the spread of the pandemic, a ban on in-person religious services will remain.

Church spokesman Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos has taken issue with the decision, according to a report by Anthee Carassava of Voice of America.

“What do they really think the Church is?” stated Hierotheos, as reported by VOA. “Do they consider it like any other supermarket or union or nail and hair salon?”

Church leadership has sent what VOA described as “a stern letter” to the government about the matter.

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The Orthodox Church is the established religion of Greece, with approximately 90 percent of the population identifying as Orthodox Christian.

In response to the pandemic, churches all over the world voluntarily or through state order suspended in-person worship as a way to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

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For Orthodox Easter, which fell on April 19 this year, most countries with large Orthodox populations saw few in-person attendees due to shutdown restrictions.

One exception was the Eastern European nation of Belarus, where dictator President Alexander Lukashenko held no restrictions and himself attended worship.

“As soon as this psychosis came, not even a disease, everyone rushed not to the church, but away from the church. It’s not good,” stated Lukashenko, as reported by the Associated Press.  

Greece’s continued ban on in-person religious services comes as South Korea recently announced an easing of restrictions for its churches, especially large congregations.

Reuters reported that while the Asian nation has a social distancing policy in effect until May 5, the state has allowed religious and sports entities some “relief” from it.

Onnuri Church in Seoul, for example, with a 3,000-seat sanctuary, has limited services to 700 attendees, who must register online in advance to attend and are given designated seating.

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