SYNODAL ANNOUNCEMENT (The Church, Political Involvement, and the Coronavirus)

 

 

The Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece, which Her Hierarchy represents and for which it speaks, does not engage in politics at all. For this reason She has never made any statements in support of or in opposition to any government. However, this does not mean that She denies Her right to criticize specific decisions in good faith, especially when these touch upon issues pertinent to the Church. Therefore, we deem it necessary to declare to all and sundry the following:

 

1. We felt satisfaction at the previous declarations of the Minister of Citizen Protection (November 13, 2020 [N.S.]): “There will not be a march to commemorate the Athens Polytechnic Uprising of 1973, just as there was no parade for October 28 or March 25 and no procession with the Epitaphios, and just as the ceremony of the Resurrection was not held and Pascha was not celebrated. On all of these occasions of national or public celebration we exercised restraint.” We were satisfied because, in spite of our bitterness at the cancellation of these “occasions of national or public celebration,” as they were characterized, we had the impression that there existed in Greece, at least at a basic level, a status of equality before the law.

 

2. We registered our indignation when it was confirmed, after the fact, that three political parties of a particular political orientation defiantly violated the prohibition and proceeded on the morning of November 17(N.S.) to organize gatherings, “observing the health protocols,” as they stated. This same Minister, attempting to justify the unjustifiable, said that “political rallies are not forbidden, but marches and gatherings are forbidden.” We ask, Were these political rallies held with fewer than four people participating? Were the rallies not at the same time gatherings? Or did the prohibition perhaps include an exception for political rallies? No, it did not. Consequently, the Minister also took political responsibility for the “tolerance,” as he put it, which the Ministry demonstrated. We ask, Are we permitted to establish political parties so that we too can hold gatherings of two hundred people “observing the protocols” in a time of prohibitions, by renaming our Church Services “political rallies”? We are sorry, but the answer of the Minister—who is worthy in every other respect—does not cover us; indeed, it reminds us all of the anecdote about those Jesuits who “renamed” the goose a fish so they could eat it on a Friday, on the ground that the goose also swims in water! We have one more rhetorical question: Which code did the participants in the “political rallies” invoke in order to leave their houses?

 

3. On the evening of that same day, 1,500 followers of a particular political party gathered in order to march to the American Embassy, chanting rhythmically, syllable by syllable as usual, the well-known—and of course in no way racist—slogan, “A-mericans are murderers of peoples”! These provocative demonstrations were finally broken up through the intervention of the police, people were taken into custody, and arrests were made. The Minister said to those taken into custody and arrested, among other things, that “COVID fines” would be imposed. And we ask, Why only on them? Since those gathered numbered 1,500, a bill for €450,000 (1,500 times €300) should be sent to the political party in question that openly organized the march.

 

4. Meanwhile, the faithful of the religion of materialism (President Putin said at one point that Communism was like a religion because it has particular iconic figures such as Marx, Engels, et al.; its own relics which they honor, such as the embalmed corpse of Lenin; dogmas; heresies; etc.) reserve preferential treatment for themselves, as the aforementioned incidents prove. However, whenever the Icon of the Theotokos has been displayed on the wall of a public building (as happened recently), they rant and rave, because our fatherland has not yet become completely irreligious, as the Albania of Enver Hoxha did at one time! These people forget that, as a nation, Greece has a tradition from which it cannot detach itself. Even those who wish to worship creation rather than the Creator (and it is their right to do so) cannot deny that Orthodoxy is an inseparable element of Greek identity. To what end are their fury and their reaction? No matter how much those who hate our nation react, there will always be genuine patriots and Orthodox Christians who preserve the characteristic elements of our culture. We also have rights, not only the nation-haters and the materialists.

 

5. Returning to the justification of public activities, if the Greek government wishes to legalize a movement for participation in political rallies, even in conditions of mandatory quarantine such as the present ones, that is its right, and let it act thus, obviously setting terms and restrictions. But we are also obligated to reiterate our earlier petition: that leaving home in order to attend Church be permitted on the same terms as leaving home for the purpose of physical exercise.

 

6. Furthermore, we repeat verbatim our previous petition (April 14/27, 2020) in these circumstances: “That processions by Churches celebrating Feast Days be permitted, with the participation of clergy, chanters, and a few faithful, maintaining safe distance between them and those chanting. Religious citizens have the same right as music lovers to hear hymns from the treasury of our Greek Orthodox Tradition. For this reason, the use of loudspeakers in Churches, as well as the ringing of Church bells, should be allowed. After all, neither viruses nor bacteria are transmitted through sound waves. And the moral reinforcement of Church-going citizens is an important factor, which should seriously be taken into consideration.”

 

7. Even materialists, who do not accept the effect of the Divine Grace of the Mysteries, are not able to deny the beneficial contribution to the spiritual equilibrium and health of the citizens, at least the religious ones, of going to Church and participating in Divine worship and especially in the Mysteries of Holy Confession and Divine Communion.

 

8. Since those who oppose our petitions constantly invoke the opinions of experts, we also invoke the opinions of expert scientists who, based on statistical data and laboratory research, say that during periods of mandatory quarantine there is a noticeable and rapid increase in domestic violence and divorce. At the same time, a 60% rise in the use of psychotropic medication and narcotics has been observed. In connection with this, Dr. Nikolaos Thomaides states that: “People in conditions of quarantine and isolation have begun to exhibit anxiety and depressive disorders, due either to isolation, or to financial problems, or to fear of the coronavirus, or to a combination of all these factors.” Traveling to Churches, regular Church attendance, and participation in the Mysteries and Divine worship act therapeutically against depression, as reputable scientific studies prove.1

 

In closing, we strongly reiterate our petition that the faithful be legally allowed to go to Church and attend Divine worship even under conditions of mandatory quarantine. Otherwise, we will be justified in demanding that whatever tolerance has been shown to participants in political rallies should be extended also to participants in such ecclesiastical activities.

 

From the Chancery

 

Athens, November 13/26, 2020

 

 

1 See Kanellos Kioulos and Joanna-Despoina Bergiannaki, “Religiosity, Spirituality, and Depression,” 2004.

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