A Statement issued by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
Since the beginning of this year, the world has been subjected to one of the most difficult temptations and health trials, inflicted by the spread of the COVID-19 (Corona) virus, which is sweeping over most countries, infecting tens of thousands of people and killing thousands of them. In response to the scientific conclusions and the calls of official authorities, and in order to preserve the safety of all, the Antiochian Church, after consultation between His Beatitude and the Antiochian Hierarchs, declares the following:
1- We emphasize the necessity of strict adherence to the procedures adopted and taken by the official authorities specialized in fighting this pandemic and its spread, including the stay at home policies, while experiencing the mystery of the family as the joy of life.
2- We call upon the believers in all the Archdioceses, clergy, monastics and laity, to fully cooperate with the competent official and health authorities, in everything that provides aid and serves the welfare of the social health security.
3- The services and prayers during the Great and Holy Week, and during Palm Sunday and Great Pascha (April 19) are to be held by just the priests and monastics in churches and monasteries, offered for the sake of all the people and for the peace of the whole world. In other words, the services are held behind closed doors, without the participation of any of the believers, while activating the possibility of direct broadcasting of daily prayers through the websites of the parishes, thus allowing the believers to follow the services from their homes.
4- We pray, when conditions allow, and by God’s mercy, to celebrate the Paschal service together on the day of the Leave-taking of Pascha (May 27, 2020), when the Paschal service is celebrated in its entirety and with our participation together. We hope that by that by time we will have triumphed over the pandemic and the life cycle be returned to normal. In order to prevent any confusion, the holy forty-days period of fasting ends at twelve o’clock at midnight of Saturday-Sunday, April 19.
5- The parish priests and all believers, along with the parish councils and various church organizations and brotherhood are called to work together and collaborate in everything that helps and supports the needy and relieves the suffering of the victims and their families.
6- The Church prays that the Lord may have compassion for His creation, remove this health distress from our world, strengthen the medical staff, nurses and all paramedic teams in hospitals and society, protect them from all harm, heal every patient, have mercy on all the deceased, and inspire all specialists, physicians and scientists to work on whatever protects life and the universe from all pandemics and evils.
7- These measures were taken according to the latest data and developments, with our hope that these days will be shortened and life will return to its natural cycle
8- While we accept the diversity of opinions and differing ideas in the approach to these matters, the aforementioned decisions and directives express the official position of the Antiochian Church. Accordingly, every violation of these decisions constitutes an explicit violation of the Church’s position, and the Church authorities are not responsible for any civil consequences of these violations.