Greek Church tells priests to ignore pandemic closure order

Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church is rebelling against a government order briefly closing places of worship under a weeklong drive to tighten virus restrictions before the planned reopening of schools

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church is rebelling against a government order to briefly close places of worship under a weeklong drive to tighten virus restrictions before the planned reopening of schools.

The conservative Church’s ruling body issued a statement Monday directing priests to admit worshippers during indoor services for Wednesday’s feast of the Epiphany. The Holy Synod said it “does not accept” the new restrictions, in force from Jan. 3-10, and would send a letter of protest to the center-right government.

All these have now been closed for a week as authorities hope to contain the virus spread so schools can reopen on Jan. 11 after a two-month hiatus. Priests are allowed to conduct Epiphany church services, but without admitting worshippers.

Church functionaries have shown a mixed response to pandemic containment measures, largely ranging from lukewarm support to virulent opposition.

The Church’s moderate leader, Archbishop Ieronymos — who himself contracted and recovered from COVID-19 — has backed the country’s ongoing vaccination drive. But a conservative bishop made headlines shortly after Christmas by railing against the vaccines, telling parishioners he had been informed that they included material harvested from aborted fetuses.

Monday’s Holy Synod statement urged the European Union leadership, and the Greek government, to ensure that “the necessary number of approved vaccines is immediately secured for citizens.”

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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