Greeks flocked to churches and crowded for a bottle of Blessed Water and a sip of Holy Communion on Epiphany, after the Prime Minister bowed to the pressure of the powerful Church of Greece. The government reversed a ban and allowed the opening of churches to limited number of faithful on this day of great importance for the Orthodoxy.
Metropolis of Chania, Crete via local media
However, in many cases, both the clergy and the faithful ignored the measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus that has so far cost the lives of over 5,000 people in the country. The crowded in and outside the churches.
In some churches, more than 1,500 people flocked for the Holy, Blessed Water and the Holy Communion, state broadcaster ERT reported.
The Prime Minister Kyriajos Mitsotaksi and the Archbishop of Athens, Ieronymos made an agreement a day earlier that the clergy would strictly observe the measures and no more than 25 to 50 persons for the larges churches would be allowed inside.
According to the agreement, the traditional ceremony of the Blessing of the Waters was permitted only inside the temples and not outside at the sea, in rivers and lakes as usually.
Again this instruction was ignored in several cases like in Agio and Evia, in Naxos and Kos.
In Aigio, northern Peloponnese, the hardcore current and former Bishops of Kalavrita, Ieronymos and Amvrosios, defied both the state ban and the circular of the Holy Synod and held the ceremony by the sea. Two faithful jumped in the water to catch the Holy Cross.
According to local media, the prosecutor intervened and the Coast Guard fined Ieronymos with 1,500 euros and each of the two men with 300 euros.
In Amarynthos Evia, some young men decided to hold their own Epiphany ceremony. They threw a cross in the water and jumped to catch it. One of them was reportedly seriously injured in the neck and was taken with ambulance to nearest hospital.
Passersby crowded at the pier to have a close look at the rescue.
Skai TV broadcast a video showing a priest and a crowd of people on a boat performing the traditional ceremony. Neither the crowd and , of course, nor the priest wore masks.
In other Epiphany news of the day, a priest went to a police station in Thessaloniki and blessed the officers and the cars.
In contrast to massive police deployment during commemoration protests in November and December where citizens were brutally beaten and fined, on this Epiphany day 2021 with 402 Covid-19 patients intubated in ICUs and some 1,000 daily infections, police had obviously orders to discreetly stand by outside churches.
Exception was the police intervention in Thessaloniki, when a crowd of people gathered at the shore to throw the cross into the water. The “event” ended up with some 10 detentions.
Video: crowd shouts “Long Live Greece” and some is heard chanting a prayer.
Following the footage of the coronavirus having a wild party at the feast of Epiphany broadcast on TV screens, the first health experts came out and warned of an upcoming infections increase and a new lockdown.
With an unexpected decision last Saturday, the government suspended the operation of several business activities such as the click away, shut down hairdressers and bookstores, claiming to limit mobility so that the schools can open safely on January 11. This decision included also the ban of faithful’s presence in churches.
Alas! The Church is more powerful than the State. The Holy Synod reacted angrily and said to open the churches defying the ban. Instead of sending police as it did in the past, the Prime Minister of the Greek conservative and pious government could not but step back and allow the opening of churches.
PS I am sure once the infections start to increase again, the government ministers and loyal mainstream media will point at the citizens, slamming them for their bad behavior, awful character and lack of personal responsibility.