On Sunday morning, churches in Greece opened and bells rung to welcome the faithful after weeks of staying away, due to the ban imposed on mass gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
It was a special moment for those who gathered from early Sunday morning in the courtyard of Ayios Spiridonas Church in Piraeus, where the melodious chants of the Sunday liturgy were broadcast on loudspeakers and heard down to the sea port.
“I can’t describe my feelings. After two and a half months of quarantine we are in our church again,” said Stella Kasimati, 76. “We are allowed what we were deprived of for two and a half months, going to church and Holy Communion,” she told Reuters.
This year’s Easter was different as the lockdown meant that the faithful could not attend attend church services.
Normally adjoining pews were replaced with chairs inside the church and in its courtyard as social distancing rules applied. Chairs were set two metres apart with boundaries in the courtyard marked with red and white masking tape.
Disposable gloves and antiseptic was available at the entrance. Some individuals kissed icons, as is customary in the Greek Orthodox religion. A woman wiped the icon with an antiseptic before the next person approached.
Church warden Petros Anagnostakis, 74, said preparations to reopen the church had been ongoing for about a week. “Today is a great celebration, we are overjoyed and touched, it’s a great celebration for us,” he said, visibly moved.
In unison, churchgoers recited the Creed, a declaration of faith in God and Jesus.
Greece has recorded a lower number of COVID-19 cases and deaths than other countries. By Saturday evening it had recorded 2,819 cases and 162 deaths.