ATHENS – Greece's Archbishop Ieronymos wants the country’s churches shuttered during a lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus to reopen, on condition that people would have to abide by social distancing rules they stay at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart.
He wrote Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and New Democracy leader Kyriakis Mitsotakis to ask for a lifting of the restrictions after the church earlier reluctantly agreed to close, even over Easter and had said Holy Communion wasn’t risky as the virus raged.
Ieronymos wrote the letter as the head of the church's Holy Synod on behalf of all 96 Greek bishops, said Kathimerini, which reported the Church of Crete sent a separate letter to Education and Religious Affairs Minister Niki Kerameus requesting reopening.
In his letter, which was reportedly sent on April 23, Ieronymos appealed to Mitsotakis as a "faithful Christian" and noted the church obeyed the lockdown over Easter despite pressure from religious zealots.
Mitsotakis is due to address the nation on TV on April 28 to reveal details of a three-phased plan to gradually allow reopenings of businesses as well as churches but the details hadn’t been released.
It was now also reported that despite the lockdown that some churches had opened on April 26 but it wasn’t said if any clerics or worshippers would be prosecuted as happened on Corfu earlier.
The paper said that church officials aren’t happy that Mitsotakis may not include them in the reopening plans and pointed to singer Alkistis Protopsalti touring Athens on a bus and performing as a violation.
Bishop Theoklitos of Stagon and Meteora reportedly said the singer's stunt was not justifiable a few days after clerics were prevented from holding the traditional epitaph processions on Good Friday. "So we've opened our doors and we're ringing our bells and we are here to defend ourselves to anyone who wants to complain," he said.
Bishop Theoklitos of Ierissos said that, "attempts to impose the state on the church will not pass" while Bishop Ieronymos of Larissis noted that, "a popular singer cannot tour Athens with a megaphone to cheer up Greeks and the same thing to be forbidden to parishes."