NICOSIA — While said the Church would follow health protocols aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 on Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos said he wants the government to reconsider a decision that services during the holiday period must be held without anyone allowed in.
He also criticized the Bishop of Morphou’s refusal to prohibit people from going to services, in defiance of stronger measures that began Dec. 11, but added the Holy Synod would meet to try to persuade the government to exempt churches.
The Archbishop said church leaders would ask the government to reconsider, but that, for now, Bishops and the faithful ought to observe all measures announced by the state, he said.
“We are strict, and will continue like that because this is the only way to be rid of the coronavirus,” the Archbishop told state broadcater CyBC, but saying the Church would limit how many could attend services and keep them apart.
Priests would also be directed not to allow anyone not wearing a mask or following the required measures and would hold two services instead of one to avoid overcrowding.
“The effort will be to serve our flock, and I believe we will convince the government and we will have people in churches on Christmas,” he said, without revealing how he hoped to change the decision.
But some Bishops said they don't want to follow the rules and Bishop Neophytos of Morphou said he would defy them and keep the churches open with no response from the government whether he would stopped.
Ieronymos said Bishop Neophytos was wrong and that, “There is no place in the Church for bravado,” especially during a pandemic that is killing people. “We are not above the government and there is no need to fight,” Ieronymos said.
Bishop Neophytos said he didn't care and would do what he wants, challenging the government to stop him.
“The church has had its own sacred tradition and its own laws and sacred rules for two thousand years to ensure and maintain the psychosomatic health of the faithful,” he said, reported The Cyprus Mail.
He also referred to the “ancient legal custom of the immunity of the sacred temples, the places of worship of God, which cannot become places of policing of the faithful, at a time when this sanctity and immunity has been respected throughout the centuries by non-Christians, non-religious people and conquerors.”
Bishop Giorgos of Paphos said the measures were too restrictive and should be reviewed, saying he understands the psychology of people and that they want to be able to go to church during Christmas, even at the risk of their lives.
“We have made preparations for two or three services to be held on the main days of Christmas, so that as many people as possible could attend church according to the measures in place. Now they came and turned everything upside down,” he said, adding he would not urge people to violate the measures during a lockdown.