After announcing earlier in the week it would defy a government lockdown order, Greece’s Orthodox Church on Wednesday opened its places of worship to the faithful to mark the Epiphany Day.
Thousands of worshippers across the country attended morning services, as in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Epiphany is one of the most important religious feasts that commemorates the baptism of Christ and the revelation of the Holy Trinity.
To prevent people from crowding, limits were imposed on the number allowed into churches at one time and police patrolled outside some churches, although they said they would not interfere with services, and will use “mild” measures to control the situation, Reuters reported.
The Greek Orthodox Church has troubled the right-wing government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which seeks to avoid a confrontation, as the powerful body plays an influential role in the country’s public and political life.
The decision was taken during an emergency session of its governing body, namely the Holy Synod, which voiced its strong opposition to the government measures, and insisted “on what was originally agreed with the state,” according to a statement by the ecclesiastical body.
“The Holy Synod… does not concur with government measures regarding the operation of churches and insists on what was initially agreed with the state – that churches will stay open for the participation of the faithful in the Mass of Epiphany,” the Greek Orthodox Church said in a press release issued on Monday.
Despite Mitsotakis’ plea for Church authorities to set the example during the pandemic, the Greek Orthodox Church was unrelenting, forcing the Greek PM to concede and allow a limited attendance at the places of worship.
Reacting to the outcome, the country’s epidemiologists voiced concerns over the potential crowding, arguing that it could lead to another spike in infections and thus, to the prolongation of the nationwide lockdown.
The renewed restrictions were imposed on Sunday, as a “precautionary” measure to secure the reopening of schools on January 11 and to relieve pressure on hospitals. Under the new rules, retail shops offering pick-up services and hairdressers that were open for the holidays were shut down, while churches were supposed to close, as well.