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Politics

Mitsotakis Tells Archbishop COVID-19 May Put Christmas On Hold

November 15, 2020

ATHENS – Whether a second lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 is lifted Dec. 1 to let people go to church, gather at Christmas and stores to open depends on whether people follow health protocols, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Archbishop Ieronymos.

He told the country's top cleric that after many defied health measures – bringing another lockdown – that their behavior will determine whether churches can hold services during the Christmas season.

That came after the two met at the premier's office to discuss the second wave of the pandemic, said Kathimerini, reporting that the New Democracy leader told the Archbishop that, “It is up to us to observe the measures and to have Christmas with our Churches open.”

Ieronymos agreed that, “We all have a responsibility to protect people and public health with our actions, so that we can celebrate Christmas in our churches,” although the Church earlier this year strongly fought being included in a first lockdown and wanted people to be able to go to church and take Holy Communion despite the risk.

The two reportedly were optimistic that conditions will improve and that people with lockdown fatigue who partied and gone around without wearing masks or staying safe social distances would revert to obeying the measures as during the first lockdown.

The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece asked Mitsotakis to allow church services for 10 days during the Christmas holidays, with a strict adherence to all the necessary health precautions without explaining how that would work at Communion.

The news was revealed by the Metropolitan of Nea Ionia and Philadelphia, Gavriil, a member of the Holy Synod, during a special online broadcast of his church on Facebook, the paper said.

“We see that the mental state of the people being put at risk because of the fear and because of the conditions of the confinement,” which is why the Church of Greece sent the letter to the government, he said. “The relationship with God helps with people’s spiritual and mental strengthening,”he added.

Regarding Holy Communion, he pointed out that this “is a matter of personal faith” and that “it is not mandatory, as no one is forced to participate," adding that "it does not transmit viruses, but eternal life,” at odds with science the government has been following and the same spoon being used for multiple users.

Mitsotakis admitted he had waited too long to bring a second closure of non-essential businesses and requiring people to stay home except for permissible missions such as going to supermarkets, banks, doctors and pharmacies.

The government wanted to keep the economy from taking a further fall after the first lockdown closed businesses up to 10 weeks and saw people at home and temporarily laid off, subsisting on a subsidies from 17.5 billion euro ($20.71 billion) safety net.

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