Greek Churches Accused of Helping Circumvent Lockdown Restrictions

Bucharest, Romania - May 24, 2020: Details of an Orthodox priest reading from the Holy Bible during an Orthodox Baptism.
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Greek churches in Thessaloniki have been accused of making secret lists of worshipers to help them get around Wuhan coronavirus restrictions and kiss church icons.

Greek Orthodox clergy have been accused of allowing parishioners to enter churches through side doors in order to allow them to kiss icons in the Orthodox practice of veneration. Health experts have asked worshipers to kiss the air near the icons, instead.

According to a report from the Greek newspaper Proto Thema, the churches have made lists of parishioners to be allowed to venerate the icons in person and participate in the ceremony for the first Friday of Lent in the Orthodox church.

Ioannis Kumis, Professor of Pulmonology and Infectious Diseases at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, said he was concerned over the trend, saying: “The [church] hierarchy in 2021 says that ‘you must go’ to the churches. It’s something that worries me. There’s no reason for that to happen.”

When asked if the churches could potentially spread the Wuhan coronavirus, he added: “It may be smaller than other sources, but it is something we can easily stop, but instead we do not stop it.”

The Greek Orthodox church has pushed back against Wuhan coronavirus lockdown restrictions imposed by the government since earlier this year when the Holy Synod announced it would be keeping churches open.

Earlier this month, the Orthodox Church of Cyprus also rebelled against coronavirus restrictions, saying it would continue to hold divine liturgy to anyone who wished to participate.

“Attendance is voluntary. No one is forced. If some people feel that they want to stay away at this time, they are free to do so”, the Cypriot church said in a statement.

In other countries, resistance by religious figures has been met with government force, such as in Canada, where Alberta pastor James Coates was imprisoned for holding church services that violated health orders.

Earlier this week, it had been announced that Pastor Coates would be released from jail as early as Friday, and most of the charges against him would be dropped.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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