“If you feel ill don’t go to church, stay home” – Priests will offer their hands to be reverenced – Antidoron will be picked from the basket by the faithful
New York.- (GreekNewsOnline)
Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and the Members of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, have issued guidelines to the Clergy and Laity of the Archdiocese to face the outbreak of the Coronavirus, Covid-19, that has spread throughout the world.
Recognizing that this outbreak impacts not only on the most vulnerable members of the community, but upon all people, the Archbishop and the Eparchial Synod have issued an Encyclical containing guidelines to the Clergy on how a Parish can best protect itself and the Faithful who worship there. Guidelines were also issued by the Chancellor, regarding the personnel of the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
In the Encyclical, His Eminence reminds the Faithful, “Science and our God-given reason demand that we employ every means available to protect ourselves and our families against the spread of Covid-19 and any other disease. In a crisis such as this, we need to exercise vigilance as a community, lest our churches become points of transmission of the disease.”
Commenting on the crisis, the Archbishop said:
“The Church has faced such challenges in the past – even devastating plagues. Today, we possess the advantage of scientific knowledge and the good common sense that can see us through this crisis. We must take every precaution that the CDC and other governmental agencies recommend concerning the coronavirus, and we will be continuously evaluating the situation with the best interest of all our parishioners in mind.”
The full text of the Encyclical of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and the Eparchial Synod on the Covid-19 Pandemic issued on March 6, 2020, is as follows:
“Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The appearance of the Covid-19 Pandemic (Coronavirus) throughout the world and in the United States has created fear, anxiety, and genuine concern. All of these need to be taken seriously and no one’s fears should be dismissed out of hand. Already, religious bodies are responding in similar ways, but ways that are not necessarily consistent. In order to assist the Faithful in their own response, this statement is meant to guide and inform us all.
As Orthodox Christians, we know that God uses material means to communicate His blessings and presence to us. The grace-filled presence of Icons, Relics, Holy Water, blessing crosses, objects (such as flowers), and even the blessing hand of a priest, convey to the believer God’s grace and energy.
The same material elements that can convey the blessings of God are also subject to the broken nature of our fallen world. Science and our God-given reason demand that we employ every means available to protect ourselves and our families against the spread of Covid-19 and any other disease. In a crisis such as this, we need to exercise vigilance as a community, lest our churches become points of transmission of the disease.
The sacrament of sacraments, the Holy Eucharist, is not simply a material element but the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, we counsel those feeling unwell physically to refrain from liturgical assemblies until they are certain of their diagnosis. Taking the basic steps of wellness as recommended by the health authorities is not only sensible, but wise and considerate of others. In truth, it is an act of love.
Clergy and Laity alike should employ best practices like thorough and meticulous hand-washing and frequent cleaning of the liturgical space and objects (e.g., hand cross, icons, etc.). Those belonging to vulnerable groups (the at-risk elderly, those with suppressed auto-immune systems, and those who suffer from chronic illnesses) should protect themselves by refraining from attending church services during the crisis. Also, everyone traveling internationally, please refrain from coming to church services for a period of fourteen days (the timeframe of incubation). Thanks to the marvels of technology, anyone can take full advantage of following services on the TV or the internet, and the clergy can visit them at home to administer the Sacraments.
In addition, no one should be criticized for making the choice to refrain for a time from their participation in the traditional liturgical practices of our Holy Church. These measures do not change the traditions of the Church but are rather temporary precautions during this time of crisis. We should strengthen one another, as the Apostle Paul says:
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with Him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (I Thessalonians 5:9-11)
As we encourage and strengthen each other, let us also offer our prayers to the Lord our God, that this pandemic might end quickly, and that, through the prayers of His Holy Mother and Ever-Virgin Mary, He will, as we pray in our litanies of fervent supplication:
«… τοῦ διαφυλαχθῆναι τὴν ἁγίαν Ἐκκλησίαν καὶ τὴν πόλιν ταύτην, καὶ πᾶσαν πόλιν καὶ χώραν άπὸ λοιμοῦ….»
“… protect our Holy Church and our city and every city and land from pestilence….”
With paternal prayers and blessing in Christ,
Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Directives to be followed
by the Clergy dealing
with Covid-19 (Coronavirus)
Directives to be followed by the Clergy dealing with Covid-19 (Coronavirus), until further notice, based on the instructions of the US Center for Disease Control (CDC)
1) All parishes will provide stations in the Narthex and/or Nave for the Faithful to disinfect their hands as they enter the Church.
2) Signs will be posted at the entrance that recommend sick persons not attend the Services, but participate via television or the Internet (URL should be posted as well)
3) The clergy will not offer their hands to be reverenced and will refrain from touching the faithful either through handshakes or an embrace.
4) Signs will be posted recommending that honor be shown to Icons and the blessing cross by only bowing.
5) No books – Liturgical or Scriptural, will be kept in the pews. Parishioners will be instructed to bring their own books from home.
6) The Faithful will not receive the Antidoron from the Clergy, but on their own as they leave the church.
7) In the case of the use of flowers (Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross, Palm Sunday, Holy Friday), the Faithful will take them on their own as they leave the church. On Holy Wednesday (Holy Unction), each priest will anoint each Faithful using separate cotton-tipped swabs.
8) The Eucharist will be distributed as per usual.
9) In concelebrations, the clerical “Kiss of Peace” will be through bowing to one another. In parishes where the laity exchange the “Kiss of Peace,” they will avoid contact through bowing to one another.
10) After every service, all liturgical objects and surfaces to be thoroughly cleaned.
The Chancellor’s Message
In a message send to all personnel of the Archdiocesan headquarters, the Chancellor says:
“As you are aware, guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) related to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is evolving rapidly. We are monitoring the situation carefully and will respond quickly to remain consistent with public health guidance as the situation develops. For now, we ask that all of us follow the below guidelines. If your personal situation requires any different response to the coronavirus than what we have outlined below, please let the Chancellor know so that we can address your concerns.
· If you are not feeling well, stay home.
o Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees who arrive at work and begin to experience symptoms should go home. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
· Please be mindful of respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene:
o We have placed hand sanitizer at all entrances. Please use them regularly.
o Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
o Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
o Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
· Increased environmental cleaning:
o Please routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. We have increased our cleaning in the common areas.
· Non-essential travel is suspended:
o No travel permitted unless approved by the Chancellor.
o Anyone traveling internationally, must stay at home for 14 days before returning to the office. If traveling for personal reasons, these 14 days will be treated as vacation days or unpaid leave, absent approval from the Chancellor.
· Visitor policy:
o All visitors will be asked whether they have recently traveled internationally, or visited any regions affected by the coronavirus or had close contact with anyone who recently visited those regions. Please consider this before inviting guests to the office.
· Work at home policy:
o If you have travelled internationally and are waiting 14 days before returning to the office, we are making arrangements for such employees to work from home.
o Please consult with the Chancellor’s office if you would prefer to work at home instead of coming to the office during this time. Such requests will be resolved on a case by case basis.