Archbishop Chrysostomos has called on believers to stay at home during Orthodox Easter, saying “if we truly love God, then our mission should be to put an end to this pandemic.”
Chrysostomos II of Cyprus issued a written statement on Tuesday to address Easter celebrations amid the coronavirus pandemic. The statement was understood to be a response to reports saying the government was asking the Church to push back Easter celebrations.
Chrysostomos likened people staying home to monks in caves, reminding believers that they could follow their faith without going to church
The President’s Cabinet, which is expected to announce on Wednesday an extension of restrictive measures that include banning church gatherings, is reportedly eager to extend curfew-like measures through the end of April in an effort to combat the spread of the Covid-19 disease.
Local media said the government was concerned over believers breaking decree violations to attend traditional Easter celebrations, with reports saying President Nicos Anastasiades might ask Chrysostomos to consider pushing back Easter towards late May.
Health experts have cautioned the government not to ease restrictions this month, saying more time was needed despite encouraging data.
In a written statement, the Archbishop said he understood that believers were facing dilemmas over missing church and worship services.
Archbishop: pray whererver you are
“My brothers, be brave, do not be weak. The fact that we cannot have these things is making all of us very sad. But those who have a real and genuine faith in God can pray wherever they are,” Chrysostomos said.
The Archbishop likened people isolated in their homes to monks in caves up in the mountains or in deserts, reminding believers that they could follow their faith without going to Church.
“If we truly love God, and that includes our fellow man who is made in God’s image, then our mission should be to put an end to this pandemic in our land,” Chrysostomos wrote.
The statement came after reports said a group of believers violated measures in place as they attempted to attend worship services at a small chapel in Famagusta district.
Government officials also had to tighten previous measures almost two weeks ago after dealing with large numbers of churchgoers during early stages of restrictive measures that banned gatherings over 75 people.
Critics and health experts criticized the measures as inadequate, prompting the government to shut down churches, businesses, and public places.
However, priests and deacons can still carry out worship services in empty churches and people can watch them on television according to local media.
The Cabinet is expected to announce Wednesday an extension of restrictive measures, while government officials previously said the decision to push back Easter would be up to the Holy Synod.