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March 17, 2020

Are Churches Allowed to Close?

By Archimandrite Vasilios Bakoyiannis

Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysios V (1887-1891) was in a heated confrontation with the Sultan, because the Sultan "diminished" the privileges of the Patriarchate, among many other things.

And the Sultan was intransigent! How did the Patriarch react? He ordered (1890) to close all the churches!

That is, by his order (!) it was not permitted to perform the Divine Liturgy or any divine service!

This was an act of mourning for the prevailing situation!*

So, when there is a reason, churches can be locked up! And a pandemic is a serious reason!

After all, Canon 80 of the Penthekti Synod "punishes" the faithful, lay people and clergy, who are absent three Sundays in a row from church, without a serious reason.

So, when there is a serious reason, they can be absent three more Sundays. And again: A Pandemic is a serious reason!

Yes, our fathers, our grandfathers, in times of pandemics (such as cholera, etc.) fled to the church. But who did this? Those who were healthy. The sick were in isolation!

But today we do not know who has and who does not have the "coronavirus", so we should all be quarantined, so we do not become murderers!

They say: "If you have faith nothing will happen to you." And who has faith? Which of the faithful would dare visit those who are hospitalized with coronavirus without a mask and the like? Who?

They also say: "Perfect love casts out fear" (1 Jn. 4:18). Not simply love, but perfect love.

Whoever has such love, first thinks of others, and then themselves! That is, first they ensure the other person does not get sick and then themselves. Well then, who has such perfect love?

So fear is in everyone, even in those who say they are not afraid.

They say: "God will protect us." How are they so sure? We must understand that, as one Elder used to say, "we do not have God in our pockets!"

Let us intensify our prayers to the all-good and all-powerful God to protect our nation and the whole world from this "temptation".

* K. Fotiadis, The Islamization of Asia Minor and the Crypto-Christians of Pontus, Thessaloniki, 1993, p. 413.