The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has given its blessing to all among the faithful who, in these unprecedented times, choose not to go to church due to the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus.
The faithful “should pray from their homes and participate in these services through Internet broadcasts and multimedia.”
The Archdiocese explained that such a decision in no way constitutes a sin, but, on the contrary, is “an act of love and responsibility for the protection of one’s self and their fellow human beings.”
Read the full statement here:
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America announces today measures to protect the health of the Greek Orthodox Flock of America, and the health of the wider public. These decisions are being taken in light of the recommendations of Federal, State, and City officials and agencies, including the CDC.
Beginning March 17, the Archdiocesan Headquarters in New York City (which is also the residence of the Archbishop) will close, and all employees will work from their homes. The Archdiocese possesses a system of videoconferencing and virtual connectivity, that will allow for the work of the Church to proceed in good order.
The Archbishop, out of an abundance of caution for the health of his flock and the public, and especially because New York City has become a “hot zone” of the Covid-19 pandemic, is canceling his public schedule effective immediately. In addition, all scheduled ordinations will be restricted to family members only.
The Churches will continue to perform the appointed services, however the Faithful should pray from their homes and participate in these services through Internet broadcasts and multimedia. Clergy will continue to make visitations for those in need of sacramental and pastoral care.
“As Christians, we must take responsibility for the well being of others. We can be united in the spirit even as we are apart in the body. In fact, protecting the health of those around us is a powerful witness to our faith, that we place the good of others above our own. With our faith in God, we can overcome these present difficulties, using the rational, scientific knowledge that we possess through our God-given intelligence,” Archbishop Elpidophoros said
“As your shepherd, I will be ever-vigilant for the welfare of our Archdiocese, praying in the Chapel of Saint Paul every day for all of you, for our Nation, and for the world. Above all, I will offer the Holy and Divine Liturgy for the life of each and every one of you. May the Lord keep us all in health and safety until these challenges have passed,” Archbishop Elpidophoros concluded.
Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago, the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Church of Chicago, also announced the suspension of liturgical activities in the 50+ parishes throughout the Metropolis of Chicago, as he is “obliged to take exceptional measures, no matter how difficult and painful they may be, in order to keep you and your loved ones, as well as our neighbours and communities, safe.”
Following is the statement:
Beloved Metropolis of Chicago family,
As we witness schools, businesses, and other institutions postponing and canceling activities, and as we anxiously await regular updates from public officials concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, I wish to assure you of my prayers and love, as well as to express to you my pastoral blessings and guidance during this time of unease and uncertainty.
As your Metropolitan, I have been blessed with the gift of fatherhood and am called to care for you, your children, your parents, your grandparents, and all of your loved ones. Naturally, this involves rightly teaching the word of God’s truth and nourishing you with spiritual sustenance. However, it also requires that I take every step to protect you from physical harm.
With the consent of the Holy Eparchial Synod, following the stringent restrictions on group gatherings being mandated by public officials across the nation, and after consulting infectious disease and other medical experts about COVID-19, I am obliged to take exceptional measures, no matter how difficult and painful they may be, in order to keep you and your loved ones, as well as our neighbours and communities, safe.
In this spirit of care and solidarity, all liturgical services in parishes of the Holy Metropolis of Chicago are suspended effective immediately, until further notice. Funerals, baptisms, and weddings will be celebrated with immediate family members in attendance only. Services in our two monasteries will only be open to the monastics residing therein. Moreover, all non-liturgical, in-person activities, whether occurring on parish grounds or offsite, are suspended effective immediately until further notice. These include, but are not limited to, catechetical classes, Greek language classes, fellowship, youth ministries, lectures, retreats, parish council meetings, social events, Bible studies, athletics, and Philoptochos meetings.
During this period, the clergy of the Metropolis will continue to minister to you. Additional resources to help you navigate these trying times are available on a special page on the Metropolis website. There, you will find additional useful information, regular updates, and alternate means of enjoying the holy services of the Church. You are also encouraged to submit any questions and concerns to: [email protected].
My beloved, the ongoing efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19 is a reminder that although the Church is not of the world, it is clearly in the world, and it most certainly cares for the world. As Orthodox Christians, we are called to love our neighbor and embrace our responsibility to others: our family, friends, and all people around us. The words of Saint Paul serve as an appropriate lens through which to view the importance of our temporary measures: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4).
Extending to you my sincere prayers for safety, health, and many years, I remain
With paternal love in Christ,
+Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago
*Photo Credit:© L100/DIMITRIOS PANAGOS