By George Gilson

Straight after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis yesterday defended his decision to exempt churches from the requirement imposed on the general population that unvaccinated faithful take a COVID-19 rapid or PCR test before attending services, and following main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras’ demand that churches comply with public health regulations that apply to all other venues (except for supermarkets and pharmacies), the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece issued an encyclical urging unvaccinated faithful, priests, cantors and monks to take two rapid tests weekly before attending church services.

The encyclical – addressed to the Archdiocese and dozens of Metroplitanates (bishoprics) nationwide – was issued today and appears to be a compromise between having the government require the faithful to be tested just as citizens must be in order to enter all other venues – a measure that would require monitoring of all churches and would have a huge political cost with an exceptionally large pool of voters – and having the official church hierarchy make it mandatory that the faithful comply with public health regulations that apply to all other venues – showing a test result before entering an indoors space.

Effectively, the Holy Synod’s urging will not be enforced in practice and it will be up to the discretion of churchgoers to abide by the instructions of the Church hierarchy. They will not have to produce a registered test result before entering a church.

The Holy Synod’s encyclical

The  encyclical of the  Synod was issued today. one day after MEGA television’s exclusive interview with the PM, who has an open line of communication and collaboration with the archbishop.

“The Holy Synod has decided, following previous related encyclicals, to urge you, and through you the entire clergy, monastic communities, and the pious faithful, that when they come to churches and monasteries they should comply precisely with all measures designed to protect from the spread of the coronavirus. [The Holy Synod] paternally urges you to comply with the position of the medical community that the essential measure that protects against the pandemic is vaccination, and that unvaccinated people submit to diagnostic tests (rapid or PCR tests),” the encyclical states.

Tests for priests, cantors, church workers

“This encyclical reiterates the mandatory twice weekly rapid or PCR test for everyone working in churches (priests, cantors, sextons and others) who have not been vaccinated. The results of these tests must be submitted to the local church authority in the framework of compliance with public health measures,”

“Finally, we remind you of the obligation of local church councils and monastic councils to monitor the enforcement of [public health] measures in churches and monasteries, respectively.”