Greek Church Authorizes Faithful for Easter Week Services
ATHENS, Greece – The powerful Church of Greece said on Tuesday it would allow worshipers to take part in Orthodox Easter services next week, but would limit attendance and hold services earlier in the day to comply with the curfew imposed by the government.
The move comes despite Greece reporting a high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and hospitals across the country are struggling to treat an unprecedented number of intubated patients. Orthodox Easter services were canceled last year, as Greece had far fewer confirmed cases.
At the same time, the center-right government is under pressure to lift travel restrictions ahead of the Easter break, while thousands of people in Athens have flouted infection control restrictions by throwing outdoor parties throughout. at night in the city squares in the midst of the heat, a spring weather.
The Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, said after a virtual meeting on Tuesday that the faithful “should in no way be deprived of participating in the joy of the resurrection,” normally celebrated with a midnight service late on holy saturday.
This year, services will begin in church yards at 9 p.m. on May 1, followed by an indoor liturgy. The timing would allow worshipers to return home in time for the 10 p.m. curfew. Services will also begin earlier on the other days of Holy Week, which begins on Monday, and indoor Greek church attendance will be limited to one person per 25 square meters (270 square feet), reaching a maximum of 100.
The decision is still subject to government approval. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis discussed the issue Monday during a meeting with the leader of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos II.
Orthodox Easter is the most popular date in the Greek religious calendar. Large crowds flock to Holy Week services, join in the mourning processions by candlelight on Good Friday, and often rowdy resurrection celebrations accompany church services at midnight on Holy Saturday.
The Church of Greece was brought in to hold Easter services without public assistance last year, when daily COVID-19 infections were in double digits – up from around 3,800 recorded on Tuesday – and virus-related deaths reported daily were single-digit, up from 87 on Tuesday.
Greece, which has a population of less than 11 million, has confirmed a total of nearly 320,000 cases and around 9,600 deaths, while 850 people are intubated in intensive care units.
While many non-essential stores have been allowed to reopen, most schoolchildren are still taking distance education. Restaurants and bars are closed and long distance travel is not permitted.
The government hopes to revive the vital tourist season in mid-May. On Monday, quarantine restrictions were lifted for travelers from most European countries, as well as Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. Air travelers from these countries will no longer be subject to a seven-day quarantine if they hold a vaccination certificate or negative PCR test issued within the previous 72 hours.
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Nicholas Paphitis, The Associated Press