Tuesday, March 17, 2020

ROCOR's midwest diocese on coronavirus - updated

(ROCOR-Chicago) - March 4/17, 2020
Venerable Gerasimus of the Jordan
“Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (Matthew 4:7)

Dear Father Rectors,

Our Diocese stretches across many states and cities, all attempting to limit the spread and effects of the novel Coronavirus. Yesterday, many governments issued orders closing restaurants, schools, and limiting public gatherings to less than 50 people. President Trump has also called for people to avoid groups of more than 10 people. State and Local governments may adopt this limit in the near future. The Bay Area has adopted a "Shelter in place" policy, and other metropolitan areas may soon follow suit.

Rectors shall implement and enforce the guidelines given by both local authorities and the Diocese. Rectors may enforce stricter measures as they see fit. Rectors may not relax or fail to implement standards set by either local governments or the Diocese. Effective immediately, all Rectors shall institute the following rules, above and beyond those already published:

1. Divine Services shall continue to the ability of each parish and monastery. Services may be limited by the availability of clergy, chanters, and limits imposed by the temporal authorities.

2. All sanitary efforts to stop the spread of the virus during services are permitted. Disposable spoons for Holy Communion are not allowed.

3. Each Rector shall review and implement the guidelines for sanitation and decontamination of the Center for Disease Control & Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

4. Rectors shall not violate any local laws, regulations, or orders limiting the maximum gathering of people in a location.

5. Rectors may implement stricter protocols based on local conditions. Rectors shall error on the side of caution and remember their responsibility to protect the health of their communities. For example, a small parish building may require a lower limit than that imposed by the local authorities.

6. If your local government officially limits gatherings to 10 or less the parish or monastery should be closed to public services. That is, the faithful should be alerted to the fact that the doors of the temple will not be open, but that prayers will be said for all the faithful and that if a parish has the capacity to do so it will stream the Divine Services on the internet. It is important, if and when any local temple must be closed, that the Rector contact as many parishioners as possible, using all possible means (mail, email, web, social media) to alert them that if they wish to partake of Holy Communion they may do so at home, and that one of the priests of the parish will visit them at a mutually convenient time to administer the sacraments.

7. Rectors shall notify the Diocesan Administration if the parish or monastery will be closed to the public, and provide information about the local conditions.

We are now at a time that, in our generation, is frankly unprecedented. In many ways our historical place in the Church will be defined by how we react to the present pandemic. More importantly, our final answer will be given to the Lord at the Last Judgment. We should keep this in mind as we make the crucial decisions we will be forced to make in the near future. It should be clear from the above guidelines that there are two crucial pieces to your decision making process: Divine Services should continue if at all possible, and we should err on the side of the health of our faithful and our nation when making decisions regarding public attendance at the Divine Services. Let us ask the Lord for wisdom! Let us ask His help to avoid hubris, panic, and conspiracy theories! Let us be an example of love and trust in the Lord so that we lead our faithful to love and trust in the Lord, and that we will lead them to the Heavenly Kingdom!

I ask your prayers for me in these challenging times, and I assure you of my prayers and blessing for you and your parishioners.

With Love in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Archbishop Peter


  1. It is interesting that Archbishop Peter follows more along the lines of OCA,GOA, and Antiochians, than the remainder of ROCOR.

  2. If the situation deteriorates like Italy, The rest of ROCOR will follow. Contrary to what the stone throwers are saying, Churches have closed during times of plague and pandemic. The Liturgy and pastoral care continued, of course, but "measures" were taken even in past. John Sanidopoulos on his Mystagogy website (THE place to go for translations of "Greek stuff") has posted a few articles on this point, citing the Rudder and historical precedent.

    1. My oh my...now your infamous moniker of "stone throwers" is being attributed to those who have faith in the sanctity, grace, and trust in the holy Mysteries of our Churches and our desire to see them remain open. Pathetic.

    2. Please don't feign concern for the church to conceal your wicked ways. Your standard operating procedure involves pointing fingers and putting others down.

      In the words of Saint Paisios, "When you're in the mood to criticize, then start with your family and yourself!"

    3. Out of legitimate interest, can anyone name a historical incident of a saint advising people to stop public and private worship out of concern for bodily health? The early Christians amazed their pagan counter parts with their lack of fear in the face of multiple legitimate plagues, their willingness to attend to the sick even at the cost of their own lives, but also the fact that they survived far more often then others.

      I don’t know of any saints speaking contrary to this precedent but if there are any I would like to read what they have to say.

    4. Unknown,

      Are you saying that I am faking my concern for the Church to conceal wickedness? Lord have mercy!

    5. Please read again the teaching of St. Paisios. Also, consider that it is a crystal clear sign of prelest when somebody will not even consider that they are at fault or on the wrong path. Conversely, in the life of St. Symeon the Stylite, we see that when his unique ascesis had scandalized his fellow monastics and a group of them told him to get down from his pillar, the saint happily complied. This proved to them that Symeon's ascesis was of God and having witnessed the saint's virtuous behaviour, they told him to continue his ascesis on top of the pillar.

      The church is all our baptized brethren for whom Christ died for. If we wish to express concern for the church, then we need to do so with love and humility instead of your "so and so has dropped the ball again" or "I would have expected this from so and so and not so and so". Christ is our only judge and not you.

      I humbly suggest that you show your posting history (on here and elsewhere) to your spiritual father.

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  4. Mikail,

    I don't think anyone has questioned the Holy Mysteries of our Church. Every bishop is responsible before God for their flock. We don't know who has or doesn't have the virus unless they are tested. Many people will never get sick but they are carriers. There are a significant number of elderly in our parishes. As I said, in times of plague Churches have closed and adjustments have been made. Were they lacking in Faith?

    For the record, I don't agree with the 100% shutting down of Churches, but I am not going to condemn those bishops who made that decision. They have information I don't have, and have a burden to carry that I will never know.

    Maybe if you found some salsa for that chip on your shoulder (Fast friendly, by the way), you would find that you can be nicer to your brothers or sisters who are struggling.

    1. My concern IS for my brothers and sisters in the Orthodox Church. They need the Churches to remain open. They need the Body and Blood of Christ for the healing of both soul and body. Talking about salsa and chips is not helping your argument very much.

  5. Sojourner,

    Have you read the encyclicals that have been issued by the different Churches? Nobody has said we should stop worship.

    Do you want to tempt God by being cavalier? There are Orthodox Christians who have the Virus right now (not just Tom Hanks and his wife). The threat is real. Italy is being decimated because they didn't respond fast enough. It is easy for us who are younger than 50 to shrug our shoulders.

    We can pray for miracles but we should not tempt God either expecting them. If I arrogantly strut my stuff in the Communion line and look down at those "lukewarm" Orthodox, God may very well reward me for my arrogance with the Coronavirus due to my folly.

    Our hardness of heart and lack of love will be to our ruin. Nobody is stopping worship, and the Divine Liturgy isn't stopping in most places either. I will commune fearlessly when possible, but I think Archbishop Elpidophoros' words on concern for others is right on as well. Each Bishop and Church will do what they think is right. Perhaps we should leave it to the Lord to judge and for us to pray for them and help each other?

    1. I didn’t ask for that speech I asked if you (or any one on here) could cite any saints that advised avoiding the potential risk of getting sick, over liturgical life. I’ll take that as a no from you. Still legitimately interested if anyone else has any information of said nature.

      If we’re just going to work in the realm of personal opinion, you and everyone else is still going to public spaces called grocery stores, still coming into contact with other human beings, still at risk of contracting a flu virus that you have a 98% chance of surviving.

      What makes Walmart safer and more worth the risk than the Divine Liturgy? If going out for “essentials only” and then vigorously applying hand sanitizer is acceptable, why wouldn’t going out to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and then vigorously applying hand sanitizer, be an acceptable risk?

      Why are some bishops forbidding priests from the liturgical life, even in the safety of their homes? What precedent can there be for such extreme measures?

      Priests performed services in death camps under threat of torture and execution because no risk was too great when it came to continuing their liturgical services, but suddenly a priest is told he can’t even serve it with his own family in his home under any circumstance, during Great Lent no less?

      Excuse me if I don’t see the sin in going to church or having liturgy.

      If I contract CV while I’m going to church in Washington, I happen to believe in God and I know He will decide if I’m among the 2% that die. I’m perfectly happy with meeting my maker if it’s His will.

      If I do happen to catch the flu, I’ll stay home, but until then I don’t see any reason to stop worshiping God in His temple.

    2. Well David....there we have it. Your argument consists of being concerned that people "strut their stuff" in the Communion line?!? Lord have mercy! Now I have heard it all! But there is one statement you made that is correct. This is on the hierarchs. They will answer to God in the end.

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  7. His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America has also authorized closed services and livestreaming, with private administration of communion. This is because the Bay Area has a shelter-in-place order during the duration of the disease. Archbishop Kyrill has also authorized disposable cups for post-communion wine, not kissing icons, and other temporary changes for areas where there are prohibitions of large groups, but not total shelter in place orders.

    However, the Eastern American diocese has no explicit guidance other than to "undertake reasonable precautionary measures" and to avoid going to church if one feels sick. So ROCOR is not uniform in its practices, though it does encourage people to be in church whenever possible without risk to themselves or others.