Friday, April 3, 2020

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on these difficult times

(ROC-Sourozh) - His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia addressed a message to the Right Reverend Archpastors, clergy, monastics and lay people of the dioceses on the territory of the Russian Federation.

In this difficult time, when the state authorities are taking all possible measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection, I urge bishops, clergy, monastics and lay people to strengthen their prayers to the Lord to protect people from harmful infection, and archpastors and pastors - to continue to zealously serve divine services and especially the Divine Eucharist - the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, even in the absence of the flock due to the relevant recommendations by the authorities. Truly - “nothing should be preferred to the work of God” (Statute of the Venerable Benedict of Nursia, chapter 43).

Today, many of us are forced to assume the feat to remain in our homes. To such I say: let the place of your confinement become for you a desert for personal and family prayer, according to the Gospel word: But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly (Matthew 6: 6). May the image of St. Mary of Egypt, who spent many years in solitary prayer in the desert, inspire us with this feat.

These days, we lost the opportunity to be together at our beloved Lenten services. But we know that even the gates of hell cannot prevail over the Church of Christ (cf. Matt. 16:18). Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? <...> in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. <...> neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8: 35-39). Even being in forced separation, as the followers of Christ have been scattered, throughout the history, across deserts and mountains, caves and ravines of the earth, we remain an indestructible community of faith, united by heartfelt prayer to the Lord Jesus. We are not alone in this prayer - our holy ancestors and ascetics of the Russian Church of all times of its historical existence stand together with us in front of the Throne of God, inspiring and encouraging us. Take courage, Church of Christ <...> Christ' friends take care of you, both praying for you and helping you (from the polyelei of the service to the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church).

Let's bear, brothers and sisters, temporary hardships in order to preserve the life and health of our neighbors. We will patiently endure the sorrow that has visited us in the firm hope that the Almighty Lord, who accepted suffering and death on the Cross for the human race and opened, by His Resurrection, the way to salvation for us, will soon change this sorrow with joy of meeting together to praise Him in our church prayers, and that the Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces and will take away the reproach from His people throughout the whole earth (Isa. 25: 8).

On these days, let's pray especially for those who selflessly put their efforts to end the deadly infection, those who work for the livelihood of our cities and villages. Let's be grateful to them and let's give them all possible support. I thank all of you, dear Vladykas, Fathers, brothers and sisters, for your zealous service to the Lord, to His Church and to one another.

I pray continually for all of you.
+ KIRILL, PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA

A pan-Orthodox directive on Holy Week & Pascha

This differs quite a bit from previous statements in that this is being put out by Antiochians, Greeks, ACROD, the OCA, et al. under the auspices of the Assembly of Bishops. This is the sort of united response I was advocating for from the first episcopal letter to today. It's also not just platitudes, but real directives.

If you look at the OCA for example, you saw one bishop put out a statement, then another bishop put out a very different statement. That's fine as each bishop is responsible for his own flock. But then the synod put out yet another statement which put into question the first two. And that pattern continued not only in the OCA, but also the Greek Archdiocese / Ecumenical Patriarchate, ROCOR, and others. And if you are privy to the letters from bishops to their clergy, you know that there was yet another layer of guidance being given that at times clarified and others confounded priests in understanding what they were supposed to be doing. All the while the faithful were calling at all hours grasping for any lifeline as to what they should be doing and how.

Sometimes the reasoning of these missives (both the public-facing and in pectore) made sense, and sometimes there was not enough explanatory material to encapsulate the why of a decision. In response, the clergy and laity variably either redoubled their prayers, threw their hands up in confusion, or picked up pitchforks and took to the Internet in disgust.

It has been a truly unpleasant experience to see one "side" taking the argument up that each bishop is infallibly doing what is right and another "side" claiming that every change made in the face of this pandemic was no less than complete abandonment of the Church and her people in our greatest hour of need. Neither pendulum swing is fair or reasonable. No bishop is living it up at an undisclosed and garishly appointed bunker under the flickering lights of gaudy candelabra while dining on lobster and champagne like some Bond villain. At the same time no bishop is wearing a protective mask and anointing people at your local hospital ER either. Your bishop is praying for you, though. I know mine is. I take solace in knowing that our hierarchs came together and prayerful put the below in effect.

May God have mercy on us all.


(AOB) - To the Clergy and Faithful Orthodox Christians of the United States of America:

During this period of crisis, we, members of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, are meeting in conference call sessions every Friday to continually monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, we discuss both pastoral and practical matters concerning the operational situation of our churches. As such, allow us first to thank all the medical health professionals, first responders, delivery personnel, and clergy who put themselves on the front lines in a sacrificial manner for the protection of our health and salvation.

We are facing unprecedented circumstances in extraordinary times. Many guidelines from various jurisdictions, following State and Federal regulations as well as CDC recommendations, have been successfully implemented in parishes around the country, helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. After consultation with public health and insurance officials, law enforcement, theologians, and pastoral care professionals, we, members of the Executive Committee, have reached a consensus concerning Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Pascha (Easter) and strongly encourage all Bishops of the Assembly to implement the following recommendations:
  1. Services, celebrated by a maximum of five people consisting of a Priest, a Deacon, and/ or Server(s), continue in the churches and may be streamed online for the faithful to pray from their homes. This is a lowering from the rather consistent ten seen in previous jurisdictional directives.
  2. None of the traditional material offerings are to be distributed to the faithful in any way, including palms and/or pussy willows, flowers, candles, and eggs, etc.
  3. Spiritual guidance may be heard over the phone, but the implementation of the Sacrament of Confession and Prayer of Absolution remains at the discretion of the local Bishop.
Whereas some Bishops might implement more stringent practices out of love and concern for their flock and broader society, less stringent approaches will put the Faithful and their Clergy at high risk and should be avoided by all Bishops.

These measures mitigate the risk of transmission due to proximity. We affirm that the Eucharist is truly the Body and truly the Blood of Christ. These measures should in no way be seen to diminish this sacred and eternal Truth.

The Church presently calls upon us, as the source of blessings, to nurture us in the commandments of Christ and lead us to His Kingdom. As the Church tells us when to fast, and when not to fast, we listen and do our best to obey these instructions. In like manner, when we suffer together in our isolation and are unable even to receive the Eucharist because of mandated distancing, we are in reality, due to circumstance, also in full communion as the Body of Christ. As we unite – as faithful Christians, as a nation, and as a global community – to stop the spread of COVID-19, may the blessings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you all!

Conveying our paternal blessings with love in the Lord,

Archbishop Elpidophoros, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Metropolitan Joseph, Vice-Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Archbishop Michael, Treasurer
Orthodox Church in America

Metropolitan Gregory, Secretary
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA

Bishop Irinej
Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central and South America

Metropolitan Nicolae
Romanian Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas

Metropolitan Joseph
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada, and Australia

Bishop Saba
Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church in North America

Metropolitan Tikhon
Orthodox Church in America

Ethiopian Church responds to pandemic

(OCP) - The standing Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has announced that due to the spread of the Coronavirus, all the faithful and most clergy shall limit their worship to their homes and that a bare minimum of the clergy should conduct services in their churches without the presence of a congregation.

These clergies, who will remain in the churches conducting prayers, should not leave the premises of the church, and their sustenance should be provided so that they do not need to leave. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church also has decreed that it’s Theological Colleges, Seminaries, and parochial schools all be converted to the care of victims of the virus and asks the responsible health authorities take them over to undertake appropriate conversions of the facilities.

The Patriarchate also will donate 3 million Birr towards the emergency fund set up by the government to combat the COVID-19 virus. The Standing Holy Synod has also asked His Holiness Abune Mathias I, Patriarch of Ethiopia, Archbishop of Axum, and Echege of the See of St. Tekle Haimanot to suspend his civic duties and enter a period of seclusion to pray for deliverance from this pestilence.

Prayer To The Mother of God during time of Coronavirus

A PDF of the prayer is available here. Made available by the Carpatho-Rusyn diocese.



Thursday, April 2, 2020

OCA issues lengthy guidance for month of April

(OCA) - Synodal Directives for the Clergy and the Parish, Mission, and Monastic Communities of the Orthodox Church in America Concerning the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 30, 2020

In accordance with the Synodal Statement of this same date and in effect for the period of: March 30, 2020 – April 30, 2020

1. A General Directive regarding the Divine Services and Parish Gatherings:

Keeping in mind that in the Orthodox Church in America in general, all Divine Services and all ministries that are done in a monastery, parish, mission, or mission station are only done with the blessing of the Ruling Hierarch (the Diocesan Bishop or the Locum Tenens):

- All monasteries, parishes, missions, and mission stations must seek a specific blessing from their bishop to perform any Divine Service whatsoever during this period. This includes not only ordinary services, such as the Divine Liturgy, but also particular Holy Week and Paschal Services, as well as extraordinary services such as Holy Unction, funerals, baptisms, and weddings.

- Clergy may not serve Liturgy in their home or in any private home. If they desire to serve other Divine Services in their own home, they must consult with their bishop.

- As usual, the directives of a bishop given either via diocesan-wide letters or by individual communication of the bishop to his clergy and parishes are to be considered as binding.

- All other in-person gatherings and in-person activities of any kind continue to be forbidden.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Bishop Luke to flock: Fifteen minutes is enough!

Message from His Grace, Bishop Luke relative to the Coronavirus Pandemic:

(HTS) - Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ members of the Holy Trinity Monastery community!

Greetings in the Lord!

It has come to my attention that many are suffering from some form of stress induced psychosis as a result of the recent epidemic. This is characterized by continual worry, nervousness, anxiety, faintheartedness, panic etc. One of the causes for this spiritual malady is an obsession with news concerning the epidemic. This is confirmed by the world mental health organization, "The World Health Organization has a recommendation for mental health: only check the news once or twice a day."

I am issuing a directive to all members of our Holy Trinity community to limit themselves to no more than 15 minutes a day informing themselves about the epidemic.

The Lord commands,"Let not your heart be troubled..." We create our own spiritual problems by our obsession with these issues which do little positive towards our hope for salvation.

As true Orthodox Christians preparing for eternity, spend the extra time in heartfelt prayer, spiritual reading and other good works!

Love in Christ,

+ Bishop Luke

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

EP lockdown extended indefinitely

Communique regarding the COVID-19 (Corona) virus (31 March 2020)

With the Communiqué of 18 March, the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced the decision to suspend all ecclesiastical rites and events within its territory, until the end of the month, as well as its intention to return to the issue, should it be deemed necessary by current developments.

Already, because cases of COVID-19 are dramatically multiplying throughout the world, with many casualties, and because, for this reason, the imposition – and rightly so – of strict and restrictive measures continue in almost every country, the abovementioned ban will unavoidably remain valid for the Sacred Center of the Phanar and the Dioceses of the Ecumenical Throne throughout the globe until further notice, depending on the course of the pandemic.

The Mother Church of Constantinople prays and wishes that the appropriate effective medicine to combat the disease will be found soon, so as to overcome this great crisis and to address its effects on society and the economy.

From the Chief Secretariat
of the Holy and Sacred Synod

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Russian prayers during Spread of Devastating Pestilence

Many Churches have put out litanies and "stand-alone" prayers for their priests and faithful to use. As I said a few days ago, some of them have been quite good while others read like first drafts that escaped the barn before they were done being sheared. The below Russian text is available as a PDF here. If you'd like a good prayer to read with the family at home, I recommend the UOC-USA's PDF here. My family reads it together every morning.



(ROC-Sourozh) - His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia approved texts of prayerful supplications in view of the threat of the spreading coronavirus infection.

With the blessing of His Holiness, the prayers will be lifted up during the Divine Liturgy at all churches of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Earlier, at its session on March 11, the Holy Synod adopted the Statement Concerning the Spread of Coronavirus Infection.

“In times of epidemics the Russian Orthodox Church always bore its ministry of witness, never refusing spiritual care and full participation in her Sacraments to anybody,” the Statement reads, “We call for restraint, sober-mindedness and prayerful tranquility, and note that a believer should not get into a panic or be gripped by fears caused by the spread of unchecked information about the infection. At the same time, it is inadmissible to take the coronavirus lightly, neglect medical advice and ignore preventive measures, thus putting at risk of infection oneself and those around.”

The Holy Synod called upon the hierarchs, pastors, monastics and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church to lift up “fervent prayer for overcoming the disease and granting strength to the doctors combating it.”

On March 17, the Holy Synod approved the instructions to rectors of parishes and metochions, abbots and abbesses of the monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church in view of the risk of the spreading coronavirus infection.

***

Prayer read during the Spread of Devastating Pestilence

O Lord our God, enter not into judgement with Thy servants, and compass us about with protection from the devastating pestilence stirred up against us. O kind-hearted Lord Who art inclined toward benevolence, have compassion on us, Thy humble and unworthy servants, who fall down before Thee with broken hearts and hope in Thy mercy.

For Thine it is to show mercy and to save us, O our God, and unto Thee do we send up glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Petitions offered up at the Augmented Litany of Divine Liturgy,
during the Spread of Devastating Pestilence

Again we pray Thee, O Lord our God, that Thou mightest mercifully protect us from the devastating pestilence stirred up against us, and deliver Thy faithful people from spiritual and physical death; grant unto the sick healing and health, and unto all of us Thy divine protection and help; we pray Thee, O kind-hearted Lord, quickly hearken and have mercy.

Again we pray, that Thou mightest pacify the troubles of men and every fearful thing, compass Thy faithful about with firm hope, and instill in our hearts quietude; we pray Thee, O Lord, hearken and have mercy.

Influential author and cleric Fr. Anthony Coniaris has reposed

A very influential writer to many in the English-speaking world. His "Introducing the Orthodox Church: Its Faith and Life" is a common book for me to hand out to people interested in the Church. My personal thanks to him for the benefit of his writing to us all. May his memory be eternal!


(Star Tribune) - Coniaris, Father Anthony M. age 93, fell asleep in the Lord on March 15, 2020 at the Glen in Hopkins. His wife, Mary Pappas Coniaris, preceded him in death in July 1991, after 42 years of marriage. They were partners in the ministry at St Mary's Greek Orthodox Church in South Minneapolis their entire marriage. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1926, the first son of Michael Coniaris from Ellinikon, Greece and Bessie Karalekas from Pavlia, Greece. He attended Boston Latin School and then went on to graduate from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts. Coniaris received a Masters of Divinity from Northwestern Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, and continued studies in the fields of religion and psychiatry at the University of Minnesota and at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Coniaris was ordained a priest in 1953 and served as pastor of St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church, 3450 Irving Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota for 39 years, from 1953 1992 his only parish assignment. After his retirement in January 1993 he devoted most of his time to Light & Life Publishing Company which he founded in 1968. He authored more than 75 books, pamphlets and brochures. Light & Life became one of the largest distributors of Orthodox materials in the world. He also lectured at retreats and seminars at several Orthodox parishes in the US as well as in Canada. In addition, Coniaris was an Adjunct Professor of Homiletics at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts and taught there during his retirement. He was past President of the Minneapolis Ministerial Association, the Twin Cities Metropolitan Church Commission, the Minneapolis Professional Men's Club, the St. Louis Park Kiwanis, and the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches. He was a member of the Board of the Children's Heart Fund, and was listed in WHO'S WHO in RELIGION 1976-77. He received the WCCO Good Neighbor Award in 1973 and the Alumnus Citation from Holy Cross Seminary. In 2018, he was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Divinity from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Coniaris was the father of two children, Paul Coniaris (Beverly), and Patricia Christopulos (Daniel); and his grandchildren, Anthony Coniaris (Alexandra), Amy Hoeft (Andreas), Ted Coniaris (Melissa), Valerie Comprelli (Kevin), David Boosalis (Kristine), Jordan Smith (Matthew), Zoe Olson (Taylor); as well as his 15 great-grandchildren. Many of the St. Mary's parishioners consider him their spiritual father. Because of this and his great love and dedication for his parish, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made out to: St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. PRIVATE FAMILY SERVICES. A public memorial service will be held in the future. Private interment Lakewood Cemetery. Washburn-McReavy.com Edina Chapel 952-920-3996

EP visit to US and Clergy-Laity Congress cancelled

BOSTON (TNH) – According to a video conference between Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and the Metropolitans of each respective American Metropolis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholemew’s highly anticipated visit to the United States will be canceled. So too will be this summer’s Joint Clergy- Laity Congress and National Philoptochos Convention in Cleveland. The cancellations have been attributed to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Archbishop Elpidophoro’s introductory remarks to Archdiocese Presbyters Council Virtual Town Hall follows:

My beloved Brothers in the Lord,

I greet each and every one of you in the love of Christ and with my deep appreciation for all that you are doing for the Faithful during this global pandemic. We have all been caught off guard and I know that you are all doing your best to keep your vital ministries going in every way possible.

The truth is no one was prepared for the consequences of such a rapid and widespread transmission of the Covid-19 virus. We are still reeling from trying to catch up with the virus, and we do not know for certain whether we have flattened the curve of the rate of infection or not. Furthermore, each area of the country is being differently affected, and will have differing regulations from region to region. So we are in a time that needs our utmost attention.

Just last evening, I had an important call with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who, as many of you know, is an Orthodox Christian himself. I will say more about that later, but it is clear that the world is looking at all religious institutions to offer more than just spiritual solace. We have capacity that may be untapped for the common good.

Brothers, we will get through this crisis, through the grace of God, with the intercessions of His Holy Mother and all the Saints. This is a time that challenges faith, and our faithful will look to us to be their support and show them the way.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Theotokos & St. Nikephoros before our Crucified Lord

(SOC-EAD) - During this pandemic, as we collectively experience the global outbreak and exponential spread of the coronavirus, the Venerable Nikephoros the Leper appeared to someone in Greece and told him: “Tell the people not to be afraid of the virus. And, in the event that someone gets infected, tell them to pray to me and I will help them.”

Rendered at the hands of iconographer, Archimandrite Evsevije (Meandzija), a Serbian post-graduate student at the Theological Faculty of the University of Athens, this new icon for our times, represents the Theotokos and St. Nikephoros praying before the Crucified Lord to save humankind from the coronavirus.

Serbia and COVID-19

(SOC) - Communique of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church

Regarding the latest recommendations of the Government of Serbia, in order to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus, "religious services in churches and in the open air are to be performed without the presence of the faithful", with the clarification that the aim of these recommendations is a safe way of worship and the protection of public health, all the while enabling worship to continue, we inform all our clergy, monastics, and faithful that the Serbian Orthodox Church will implement these recommendations, as it has already done in those countries of the Serbian diaspora and other regions where such protective measures have been taken a few days ago. The Church will not interrupt the serving of the Divine Liturgy or cease communing the faithful, because this is a matter which cannot be debated: it is the basis of our faith in the Living God. Specifically, this means that during the services in the church there is to be a priest (or priests) with a deacon, chanter, and an altar server (according to the need and circumstance).

We urge the faithful, 65 and older, as well as those of younger in weaker health and lower immunity, to refrain from coming to church for worship in the coming days and weeks and put themselves and others at risk.

We repeat: the risk is not in Holy Communion (on the contrary, we receive it, among other things, "for the healing of soul and body"), but the real danger of the virus, unrelated to Holy Communion, is due to its recent spread everywhere, and the upcoming period has been deemed by both Chinese and our own experts as the most critical and see an increase of isolation as the only way to stop it from spreading and avoid the tragic experience in Italy and some other countries.

To our faithful we impart our paternal, pastorally responsible and loving blessing that they follow the divine services by television broadcasts and/or online, via church websites, and that they schedule with their parish priests communion at home in due time.

All other services, particularly Holy Baptism, should be postponed for a later date when the situation has been normalized, but when it is urgently needed it should be done according to the measures of the state of emergency. Funerals must be done with as few amount of people as possible.

We note particularly that we should not use church attendance as an excuse before one’s conscience and neighbors for disrespecting the measures of self-isolation. Thus, we once again call upon all our clergy, monastics, and faithful to abide by all the precepts of the state and directions regarding church life prescribed by the Holy Synod of Bishops.

From the Office of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church

Athonite monk reportedly comes down with coronavirus

(Orthodox Times) - A monk from Mount Athos infected with the coronavirus is hospitalised at the “AHEPA” University General Hospital of Thessaloniki.

The monk has been living to a large monastery of Mount Athos and had reportedly travelled to England along with a delegation of the monastery. Other monks in the same monastery have the same symptoms and, therefore, they remain in quarantine in their cells. It is the first recorded case on Mount Athos that closed its gates to pilgrims a week ago due to the coronavirus.

An Italian pilgrim had also suspicious symptoms while he was at the Hilandar Monastery a few days ago. He was also transferred to the same hospital, where he was found to have common flu.

Services at Church of the Holy Sepulchre will continue

(Church of Jerusalem) - On Thursday, March 13/26, 2020, the Three Major Communities, namely the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Custody of the Holy Land of the Franciscans, and the Patriarchate of the Armenians in Jerusalem, who are responsible for the Status Quo, published the announcement stated below, stating that the Services at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre will continue to be held by the ministering Fathers of each Community, according to the Typikon of the Status Quo. However there will be a significant decrease in the numbers of the faithful attending the services, in order to adhere to the safety precautions against COVID-19 virus.

“Following the evolvement of the situation in the Holy Land, we the Heads of the Three Communities to whom the Providence granted the grace and honour of proclaiming the lodes of the Lord in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and Resurrection, wish to inform that the celebrations of the Communities, the Greek Orthodox, the Latin and the Armenian will continue regularly, even though for safety reasons and in order to avoid the risk of the diffusion of the COVID-19 infection, the number of participants in the celebrations will be limited to few persons and the Basilica will be accessible during the liturgies only.

We wish to assure that inside the Basilica, the prayers of the Three Communities will continue, rather intensify, asking the Heavenly Father the end of the pandemic, the recovery of the sick, the protection of the medical personnel, the wisdom for the Pastors and the Governors and the eternal salvation to those who lost their lives. We raise this prayer from the very place where, through the sacrifice of His own life on the Calvary and through His Resurrection from the Sepulchre on the third day, the only begotten and beloved Son Jesus Christ, defeated evil, sin and death.”

When the mayor of St. Petersburg and the Church collide

(orthochristian.com) - Residents of St. Petersburg, Russia, are prohibited from visiting religious sites from March 28 to April 5 according to new measures aimed at containing the quickly-spreading coronavirus.

The decree signed by city Governor Alexander Beglov yesterday prohibits “individuals from visiting objects (territories) of religious organizations, with the exception of the clergy and religious personnel of the given religious organizations.”

However, the Russian Church has responded that the Russian constitution and law do not provide Beglov with such powers.

Responding to the new decree, the Legal Department of the ROC states that:

In the Russian Federation, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion are [constitutionally] guaranteed, including the right to celebrate the Divine services individually or jointly with others, and other religious rites and ceremonies.

The right of man and citizen to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion can be restricted in order to protect the health of citizens only by federal law.

Other acts of government bodies (including acts of government bodies of constituent entities of the Russian Federation and municipal bodies) may not restrict freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, including the right of citizens to visit religious sites in order to participate in the Divine services, as such acts do not have the status of federal law.

And, according to a statement from the St. Petersburg Metropolia yesterday, services in the city will continue.

The statement begins by noting that, “for the sake of pastoral care of people … while maintaining a firm faith in the work of God’s good providence and in Divine omnipotence,” special measures have already been taken since March 19, including the disinfecting of churches.