Four days after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that faithful at Orthodox churches will have to present a negative COVID-19 rapid test in order to enter a church, the Holy Synod, the Church’s executive organ, announced that it does not have the wherewithal to conduct such checks at the entrances of Church’s.

The PM had cited a prior decision of the Synod which recommended rapid tests before attending services but did not render it compulsory.

The confusion suggests that the PM had not reached an agreement with Archbishop Ieronymos for church sextons or parish council members to check tests and enforce the law.

A spokesman for the Synod, Metropolitan bishop Timotheos Anthis, said today that members of some parish councils have resigned in order to avoid skirmishes with the faithful.

In a statement today, the Holy Synod said it agrees with the measures taken by the government and called on priests and the faithful to protect themselves and their fellow citizens.

However, it made clear that the staff at churches are not in a position to check the faithful.

In a lengthy statement, the Synod said that the Church from the start sought to forge consensus and has assisted the state by speaking with a sense of responsibility, urging everyone to be vaccinated in accordance with the advice of experts, freely and without pressure.

“The steadfast position of our Church is that the choice of vaccination is not an issue of faith or confession, but rather is a subject for medical science and individual and social responsibility. Every opposing view, including those of clergymen, do not represent the Church of Greece, which is administered and officially expressed by the Holy Synod,” the statement read.

Impossible for church staff to check COVID-19 tests
“Regarding the 19 November Joint Ministerial Decision requiring that the faithful when they enter churches to participate in services and worship the True God have the foreseen certificates, [the Synod] believes that it is impossible to be checked by workers (sectons) or volunteers at churches, as it has neither the capability nor responsibility for guarding, nor public (e.g. policing) powers,” the Synod said.

The Synod reiterated that it stands by its 4 November encyclical that called on the clergy and faithful to precisely enforce all protective measures to avert the spread of the coronavirus and “paternally” urged vaccination as an essential protective measure against the pandemic, especially right now for all who are over 65 years old, as well as for the unvaccinated to take diagnostic tests.

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