Greek Orthodox Church defies govt lockdown measures, offers divine worship
ATHENS, Greece, January 7, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The Greek Orthodox Church has chosen to defy new lockdown orders imposed by the Greek government which have the stated purpose of mitigating the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.
The Holy Synod, its governing body, called an emergency session on Monday to consider the government’s recent orders tightening current restrictions, including the closing of churches, as The Guardian reports.
In response, the clerics vowed to open their churches for Epiphany liturgies on Wednesday, January 6, as had been part of a previous arrangement with the state.
“The synod does not agree with the new government measures regarding the operation of places of worship and insists on what was originally agreed with the state,” the ecclesial leaders said in a statement.
“It asks that the aforementioned decision be absolutely respected by the state without further ado taking into consideration … that all the foreseen hygiene measures were upheld by clerics in thousands of churches across Greece,” they wrote.
According to the Greek publication I Kathimerini, the Holy Synod also complained that the government had not consulted with it prior to publicly imposing the new lockdown measures.
This announcement comes in the wake of similar struggles recently engaged in France.
In early November, hundreds of Roman Catholics across the country demonstrated outside their churches, protesting government restrictions of a 30-person limit.
More recently, Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Lille encouraged his priests to “welcome all believers,” while calling the government measures “arbitrary, discriminatory and unrealistic.”
Soon after, in response to such sentiments, the French Council of State, the nation’s highest administrative court, required the government to reconsider the measures, referring to them as “disproportionate.”
In a recent piece titled “It is time for civil disobedience in the name of fidelity to Christ,” Dr. Peter Kwasniewski encourages churches to recall “the non-negotiable and non-erasable priority of divine worship” and be ready to defend it even at tremendous personal cost.
He affirms that such regulations, which are indeed “disproportionate” to the common good, are, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther King, unjust laws, which are “no law at all.” Further, “[t]o such ‘laws’ we must give not obedience but civil disobedience, which, indeed, is obedience to a higher law, indeed the highest law.”
He warns against “falling in line for state subservience,” and accepting as custom a notion that public worship “can be canceled at the whim of a heathen governor.”
In the backdrop of these dynamics, President Donald Trump recently provided a dramatic reminder of the importance of religious freedom to American values, culture, identity, and law.
With his “Proclamation on the 850th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket,” the president observed how the murder of the 12th-century English archbishop “eventually brought about numerous constitutional limitations on the power of the state over the Church.”
The Magna Carta, which was signed half a century later, declared, “[T]he English church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired.” And, as Trump explained, this “eventually led to the establishment of religious liberty in the New World” as reflected in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
President Trump concluded his statement by proclaiming, “The tyranny and murder that shocked the conscience of the Middle Ages must never be allowed to happen again. As long as America stands, we will always defend religious liberty.
“A society without religion cannot prosper. A nation without faith cannot endure — because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the grace of God.”