Thursday, January 21

The Church of Greece challenges confinement due to coronavirus


Wednesday, 6 January 2021 – 18:32

After decreeing a new confinement last Saturday, the Holy Synod has maintained religious services during Epiphany

One of the faithful kisses the crucifix Without a mask

One of the faithful kisses the crucifix Without a mask
Valerie Cache AFC

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The celebration on Wednesday of the Christian feast of Epiphany in the churches of Greece, despite the strict confinement, raises the criticism of experts and opposition who accuse the Conservative government to “give in” to the powerful Orthodox Church.

Two days after a ministerial reorganization to “face the new challenges” of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in power for a year and a half, is criticized for failing to ban religious services, amid fears of a third wave of covid-19.

Many faithful, With masks and respecting -the vast majority- sanitary measures, went to church on Wednesday, and received communion, a practice that can facilitate the spread of the pandemic, as AFP photographers observed.

The police, present at some temples, limited themselves to making recommendations to the faithful about social distance.

Given the government’s call on Tuesday to respect confinement, the Church only consented to annul “the blessing of the waters”, an Epiphany tradition in which a cross is thrown into the water and young people jump to retrieve it.

” Medieval behavior”

But in some cities, such as Thessaloniki (north) -the most affected in recent months by the virus after a religious festival at the end of October- or in Aigio (southwest), “the blessing of the waters” The same took place and the police imposed fines and made interpolations.

George Palaces, a Greek physician at a cancer research center in the United States, rated “medieval” the behavior of the prelates in an article published in the liberal daily Kathimerini.

The second wave of the epidemic in Greece, which earned him strict confinement since November 7, it was much more virulent than that of the boreal spring.

The country mourns 5,000 deaths, of which more than 4,000 were registered in the last two months.

The Church of Greece, linked to the State, has been criticized on several occasions for the lack of respect for sanitary measures. At least five prelates contracted the coronavirus, two of whom died.

Pulse between the State and the Church

The struggle between the Greek ecclesiastical power and the government began on Monday after a decision by the Holy Synod, the supreme organ of the Church, to celebrate the Epiphany. With the churches open despite the strict confinement decreed last Saturday by the authorities, after the relaxation of sanitary measures during the end of the year holidays.

After a meeting on Tuesday With the head of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the Church to “assume your responsibilities”, stressing “the need for strict respect for health measures by all” and urging the Church “to set an example.” The Church’s attitude toward this appeal caused political upheaval.

The main opposition party, the Syriza formation of Alexis Tiaras (radical left) accuses the government of “yield to the Church” and qualifies the confinement management as “theater of the absurd”.

The Final party (center-left) also regrets the “retreat of the government.”

” While citizens are obliged to respect confinement, it is inconceivable that the Holy Synod would make an exception by endangering public health,” he said.

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