New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
More Greek Orthodox parishes across the United States are taking measures to protect their members from the spread of COVID-19, following the directives of the Holy Eparchial Synod. To date, two cases of Coronavirus have been reported in parishes of Long Island and one in Boston.
At St Paraskevi in Greenlawn, Long Island, the Priest Rev. Lou Nicholas has voluntarily placed himself and his family, under quarantine for two weeks, after he has offered Holy Communion at home to a person who has been test positive.
At St Demetrios Merrick a parishioner – who wasn’t attending church services for some time – has been tested positive for Coronavirus.
Metropolitan Nathaniel of Chicago announced Saturday evening that “all liturgical services in parishes of the Holy Metropolis of Chicago are suspended effective immediately, until further notice”. The majority of the members of the Metropolis reacted positively, although a small group of fanatics/fundamentalists criticized the decision.
In New Jersey, parishioners informed “Greek News” that that their priest in a long letter criticized “some of our brothers and sisters (who) have grabbed on to the opportunity (of the virus) to express their unorthodox views concerning the reception of Holy Communion and church attendance.”
All afternoon schools in the Direct Archdiocesan District has suspended their classes. Starting from Monday, the Argyrios Fantis Day School of SS Constantine and Helen in Brooklyn will have classes only through internet. UPK will continue because it follows the City regulations.
The Direct Archdiocesan District that held its Clergy Laity conference on Saturday, March 14, allowed delegates who could not attend because of the Coronavirus threat to participate through teleconference.
On Saturday, March 14, 2020, the Holy Eparchial Synod convened via a teleconference to continue assessing the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as Corona Virus, and decided the following:
1) For the benefit and protection of the faithful, and taking into account the recent scientific findings, we advise our faithful not to be exposed in places of public assembly (including attending church) during the next few weeks. We recognize that this is an unprecedented situation and one that calls upon each of us to take steps to protect our fellow parishioners and larger communities. During this time, if anyone wishes not to come to church, the Holy Archdiocese extends this blessing, as such a decision is not a sin, but an act of love and responsibility for the protection of one’s self and their fellow human beings. We encourage the faithful to participate in the experience of sacred worship at home, on TV, or using multimedia platforms.
2) We are obligated to abide by the regulations of the Local and State governments, as stringent as they may be, in an effort to support public health efforts.
3) Each Metropolitan has a duty to make necessary decisions for the protection of the faithful in accordance with the public health mandates and the local restrictions regarding public assembly and other protocols.
March 14, 2020
ST PARASKEVI GREEN LAWAN
At St. Paraskevi Greenlawan, Fr. Lou Nicholas informed the parishioners that under advice from the Bishop:
1. ALL activities at St. Paraskevi are canceled for the next two weeks. This includes Greek School, Sunday School, all athletic activities and meetings.
2. All weekday church services are canceled; only Sunday services will continue. There will be a substitute priest for the next two Sundays.
In a separate message to the parishioners, Fr. Lou Nicholas briefed them on his “adventure”.
“I pray you are well. Last night I was informed that one of our parishioners was tested positive for the coronavirus. This person was not in church over the last two weeks. However, I visited this person this past Monday morning to say a prayer, administer communion and anoint this person with Holy Unction. Although I had no physical contact with this person, on the advice of my doctor, I am voluntarily placing myself, and my family, under quarantine for two weeks. If you were in contact with me in any way since Monday afternoon, I suggest you contact your doctor for advice on what you should do next. Meanwhile, all of the neccessary steps will be taken to ensure that the church is properly sanitized. Please contact me or the Parish Council president if you have any questions. There will be another email sent to you regarding upcoming events and services. I ask for your forgiveness and prayers. With many blessings, Fr. Lou.”
METROPOLIS OF CHICAGO
Metropolitan Nathaniel issued the following statement Saturday evening, following the Eparchial Synod’s teleconference:
Beloved Metropolis of Chicago family,
As we witness schools, businesses, and other institutions postponing and canceling activities, and as we anxiously await regular updates from public officials concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, I wish to assure you of my prayers and love, as well as to express to you my pastoral blessings and guidance during this time of unease and uncertainty.
As your Metropolitan, I have been blessed with the gift of fatherhood and am called to care for you, your children, your parents, your grandparents, and all of your loved ones. Naturally, this involves rightly teaching the word of God’s truth and nourishing you with spiritual sustenance. However, it also requires that I take every step to protect you from physical harm.
With the consent of the Holy Eparchial Synod, following the stringent restrictions on group gatherings being mandated by public officials across the nation, and after consulting infectious disease and other medical experts about COVID-19, I am obliged to take exceptional measures, no matter how difficult and painful they may be, in order to keep you and your loved ones, as well as our neighbors and communities, safe.
In this spirit of care and solidarity, all liturgical services in parishes of the Holy Metropolis of Chicago are suspended effective immediately, until further notice. Funerals, baptisms, and weddings will be celebrated with immediate family members in attendance only. Services in our two monasteries will only be open to the monastics residing therein. Moreover, all non-liturgical, in-person activities, whether occurring on parish grounds or offsite, are suspended effective immediately until further notice. These include, but are not limited to, catechetical classes, Greek language classes, fellowship, youth ministries, lectures, retreats, parish council meetings, social events, Bible studies, athletics, and Philoptochos meetings.
During this period, the clergy of the Metropolis will continue to minister to you. Additional resources to help you navigate these trying times are available on a special page on the Metropolis website. There, you will find additional useful information, regular updates, and alternate means of enjoying the holy services of the Church. You are also encouraged to submit any questions and concerns to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My beloved, the ongoing efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19 is a reminder that although the Church is not of the world, it is clearly in the world, and it most certainly cares for the world. As Orthodox Christians, we are called to love our neighbor and embrace our responsibility to others: our family, friends, and all people around us. The words of Saint Paul serve as an appropriate lens through which to view the importance of our temporary measures: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4).
Extending to you my sincere prayers for safety, health, and many years, I remain
With paternal love in Christ,
+Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago
METROPOLIS OF BOSTON
Metropolitan Methodios of Boston issued the following statement on Friday:
To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful Stewards of the Metropolis of Boston
Reverend Brothers and Faithful Stewards of our Parishes,
The COVID-19 (Corona) virus has taken the lives of brethren throughout America and the entire world. Boston is one of the major coronavirus clusters because of a meeting of Biogen Inc. which took place at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel near the tourist mecca of Faneuil Hall. Over 175 executives attended that meeting and thereafter traveled throughout the United States and the entire world.
The Coronavirus pandemic must be faced without panic, but in compliance with the directives of the World Health Organization and the Center of Disease Control and Prevention as well as those of our civic leaders. Governor Baker of Massachusetts issued an order this afternoon prohibiting the gathering of 250 or more people. Similar directives are expected from the authorities and all the New England States.
Serious consideration should be given by our communities to suspend the Greek School and Sunday School programs until further notice. Additionally, your parishes should be most cautious and concerned with our elderly brethren and all who suffer with health issues. Cancellation of worship services is a decision taken by the Parish in accordance with the guidance and directives of the local civic authorities.
Let us pray for all those who have dedicated their lives to the health, medical, nursing and research fields. May we be strengthened as we face this pandemic. Let us pray that the “Lord of the Powers be with us, for in times of distress we have no other help.”
With Archpastoral love,
METHODIOS Metropolitan of Boston
METROPOLIS OF NEW JERSEY
Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey issued the following statement on Friday:
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy
Of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey
I pray this letter finds you well as we continue our Spiritual Journey through Great and Holy Lent. As a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, although our parishes will continue to hold all scheduled worship services, I hereby direct that the Greek afternoon Schools and Religious Education Schools of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey to follow the directives issued by the state or local county in regard to school closures. Therefore,
if your parish is located in a state or county that has closed schools, then your parish schools are to be closed as well.
In addition, although there is great importance to the non-worship events in the life of our church, for the protection and well-being of our beloved faithful, I hereby strongly recommend that all non-worship events (including Fellowship hour, youth activities, March 25th celebrations, Lenten retreats/concerts, etc) in your parish be suspended until further notice. Praying that our loving Lord continues to bless you and your ministry to His Church, and that He, who is the Physician of our souls and bodies protects us during these difficult times, I remain
With Paternal Love and Blessings,
† E V A N G E L O S
Metropolitan of New Jersey
A PRIEST’S MESSAGE
A priest from a parish in New Jersey, has sent the following message to the parishioners, on March 12, 2020.
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
In light of the recent panic that has taken hold throughout the world over the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), inasmuch as it has become evident that our society around us shows us how it believes more in fake news, more than it does in true medical research, I would like to take this opportunity to address this issue from an Orthodox viewpoint and from the viewpoint of common sense. Unfortunately, some of our brothers and sisters have grabbed on to the opportunity (of the virus) to express their unorthodox views concerning the reception of Holy Communion and church attendance.
It is evident that today’s world is characterized as being one of spiritual decline. Many people, who identify themselves as being Christians, believe only in that which they can see and hold in their hands, as well in that which they hear through the media. Perhaps, they wish to have a good, or even a slight, connection with the Church, but not a true relationship with the Church, the Church which for centuries has found its strength in the Body and Blood of Christ, through the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the Sacrament par excellence.
Perhaps, they would prefer a church that serves their own personal needs, as they see fit… a church that is cut and pasted to their own desires. In such a egocentric mode, even the Holy Sacraments of the Church become victims to their verbal attacks, which, in essence, are border-line blasphemy. My only comment to such is that the Church has become accustomed to such attacks.
If one were to examine the history of the world, one would notice that there have been many instances when the world was plagued with epidemics. The appearance of the Coronavirus should concern each one of us, however, we should keep in mind that the Church has survived for the past two thousand years, in spite of viruses and plagues. Not only has the Church survived, it has grown. No where in the history of the Church has there been any evidence of sickness being transmitted from the Holy Chalice, and for that matter, from one’s participation in the liturgical life of the Church. In fact, during such times, the faithful would traditionally come to the Church for comfort and healing. There are many examples of illnesses being eradicated through the intercessions of the Virgin Mary and the Saints, during times of need. At the same time, many would have us forget that the contents of the Holy Chalice are not simply wine and bread, but rather those elements that have been transformed to the Holy Body and Sacred Blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Those who would have us think otherwise have been blinded from the doubts, ignorance and non-belief. This could be attributed to the fact that they have never experienced true communion with God and all those who are receiving Holy Communion. Perhaps, they have not been worthy of the great and divine invitation to “taste and see how good is the Lord” (Communion Hymn of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts).
The basis of a true Christian life is one’s faith in God, Who is worshipped in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is realized and materialized during the Divine Liturgy, and especially through the Holy Eucharist. It is within the context of Holy Communion that the Divine Grace of God sanctifies the bread and wine, transforming them into the Body and Blood of Christ, just as He offered to His disciples during the Last Supper.
The Church, which has brought us Christ, through the ages, invites us to participate in this Sacrament, in order for us to unite ourselves with Christ and all of the other believers who partake of the Holy Gifts. We are invited to partake “with the fear of God, with faith and with love,” and not for
“good luck” nor out of some notion of maintaining a family tradition.
Through our reception of Holy Communion, we renew our relationship with God and with stay close to Christ. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” (John 7,56). If one does not believe, one should not receive… no one is forced to receive.
No virus and no sickness, during the course of history, has ever been transmitted through Holy Communion. For close to two thousand years, both the healthy and the ill have received from the same Holy Chalice. At the same time, when one is ill, the priest should be called to sick person’s bedside. If one was to stop and think how many times each priest has communed the sick, many of whom had very contagious diseases, and afterwards proceeded to consume the remaining Holy Communion from the Chalice, one would then realize that sicknesses are not transmitted through Holy Communion. In simple terms, Holy Communion is never a means of transmitting illnesses; Holy Communion transmits to the faithful the Divine Grace of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Christ is the source of life. In fact, Christ is the source of eternal life and all that is good. Christ never brings on sickness, nor pain, nor death, nor any evil, to humankind. We should never lose track of this fact. All that is evil comes to us from the devil, whose whole purpose of existence is to divide us from God.
Science uses experiments and the frequency of symptoms in determining experiments. Many times, those who are not believers have tried to disprove the sanctity of the Sacraments, much as it has attempted to do with many other miraculous icons and events. All of these are understood through faith.
While the world is passing through this difficult period, let us keep our faith. At the same time, let us continue to use “common sense.” If one is sick, stay at home! If you are at risk for catching the common flu, stay at home! There is no need in getting others sick, no matter what the ailment is! Use “common sense” in daily tasks… wash one’s hands and utensils, especially if one is around others who may be sick. Avoid those who are sick.
Paternally, I encourage you to pray that our Lord, the Physician of our souls and bodies, come and restore to health and vigor all those who have been effected by this illness, as well as all the sick and suffering throughout the world, as He may see fit, so that they and we may be granted time to always glorify His Holy Name, and I remain
With love in Christ ……