In a statement released on Wednesday, the authorities of the monastic community of Mount Athos acknowledged the necessity of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, but also noted that the sacrament of Holy Communion is "the greatest sacrament of the Orthodox Church and is absolutely necessary for the spiritual life of the faithful."
In particular, the statement said the 1,000-year-old monastic community respects the efforts undertaken by health authorities and scientists to curb the pandemic and that the safety guidelines are being observed diligently, but insisted that they must not result in “the restriction of religious freedom and Christian worship.”
"In the current difficult circumstances of the pandemic disease, there is an additional need to seek refuge in God."
In the resurrection liturgical period of Easter, which we are going through, let us unite with the Lord, in repentance, in love, in almsgiving, in condescension to the weakness of one's neighbour, in patience, in faith unjustly," the statement concluded.
Mount Athos has banned visitors and pilgrims until May 17.