The Greek government has expressed concerns about a possible overcrowding in churches, following the decision of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece to allow the faithful to venerate and kiss the Epitaph on Holy Friday from 1pm-5pm.
One of the paragraphs of the Holy Synod’s encyclical sent out to the priests of the whole country in relation to the recent Joint Ministerial Decision, which provides for liturgies behind closed doors, has caused great concern to the government.
The encyclical states the following with regards to the veneration of the Epitaph and the opening of churches:
- for two hours after the end of the morning services during Holy Week (from 11am until 1pm), churches will open
- for four hours after the Service of Apokathelosis on Holy Friday, from 1pm-4pm, the faithful can venerate the Epitaph
Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management, Eleftherios Oikonomou, stressed that the faithful and the Church should respectfully follow the instructions of the doctors and avoid overcrowding. However, with the Epitaph positioned inside churches, there is a fear that the faithful will flock and defy social distancing measures when doors open.
Government spokesperson Stelios Petsas reiterated during his press briefing on Thursday that there was not an option for people to go to the Church under the current regulations, clarifying that “someone who is on the move for another reason can apply via phone for what we call individual worship.”
“We are examining various issues so that there is no overcrowding. In any case, we do not go to the Churches and follow the instructions of the experts,” Petsas added.
Given the circumstances this year with the global pandemic, ERT will be broadcasting Holy Week church services from the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation in Athens.
Update: “Under the present circumstances, the Holy Synod does not urge any believer to come to church. Churches are not open to the faithful and that is the point of holding holy services behind closed doors,” the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios and Church of Greece spokesman, Ierotheos, told morning news bulletins Thursday.