The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholemew has called on the faithful to stay home and follow the instructions of authorities so as to stem the spread of coronavirus, an indirect swipe at members of the clergy who have told the faithful they can continue to go to church and take Holy Communion.
Among the voices of dissent is the Bishop of Morphou who has said that suggesting Holy Communion can spread the virus is blasphemy. Archbishop Chrysostomos has asked the faithful to stay home but later said that up to 10 people would be allowed in church.
“What is in danger is not faith, but the faithful, it is not Christ but Christians, it is not God but we, humans,” said Bartholemew, who is the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox church.
He also thanked doctors and nursing staff for their efforts. “We thank you and we all applaud you, not just from the balconies of our houses but in our hearts, every minute. Our thoughts and our prayers are with you.”
He also thanked researchers and all those working to address the pandemic.
“In this fight, the state, the competent health authorities have responsibility for planning, addressing and overcoming this crisis. One could describe them as the General in dealing with an invisible but known enemy. An enemy against humanity,” he said in a circular.
This requires the cooperation of all. It is a time of individual and collective responsibility. The measures are there to protect us, and we must all cooperate, he said.
Some may feel that these drastic measures strike a blow at faith, but what is in danger are the faithful, not faith, he added.
“Our faith is alive and no emergency situation can restrict it. What must be restricted are large gatherings… we should stay home. Protect ourselves and those around us. There each of us should pray for all of humanity, relying on the strength of our spiritual unity, he said adding that the crisis will be overcome.
“This crisis will pass. But our lives will have changed. And this trial is an opportunity for it to change to the better. In the direction of entrenching love and solidarity,” he concluded.