An ugly scene broke out in the northern Greek town in Chalkidiki this past weekend, after a priest celebrated the Liturgy in defiance of the new government lockdown to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The priest ended up not being arrested by the authorities but he was fined 1,500 euros ($1,782) for holding the service, which was attended by only two parishioners.
However, the priest’s 30-year-old son, along with one of the worshippers at the service, were arrested after they attacked police who were attempting to issue the fine to the priest.
The clergyman had urged his parishioners to attend the service and defy the government’s ban on religious services as part of the most recent lockdown, reportedly telling them, “You’re either with Christ or the Coronavirus.”
Despite the fact that the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, Ieronymos, along with the Archbishop of Albania, have been hospitalized with Covid-19, the Chalkidiki cleric went on with his campaign to hold services.
The area of northern Greece in particular is being his particularly hard in this dreaded second wave of the pandemic, especially the region of Thessaloniki.
The police proceeded to the church following a complaint lodged against the priest, finding located two parishioners in the church along with the priest. They immediately imposed a fine of 300 euros on the two citizens and 1,500 euros on the priest.
According to a report from the news website voria.gr, the priest’s son and one of the two parishioners then verbally and physically attacked the two police officers, leading to one of them becoming slightly injured.
One of the believers was also slightly injured in the fracas.
The two police officers subsequently went to the hospital as a precautionary measure and were checked out by the medical staff there, while the two individuals who attacked the police were arrested.
During the lockdown, priests may perform services but they must only be accompanied by staff or other priests who are necessary for the carrying out of the Liturgy. No parishioners are allowed to be in attendance.
Metropolitan Lays Out Rules for Priests During Lockdown
Anthimos, the Metropolitan of Alexandroupolis , reminding the clergy of the necessity of complying with governmental measures against the coronavirus, spoke publicly about this incident and the dangers of such behavior.
Referring to those who act as if they believe that they are superhuman and invulnerable, he said men such as these give “criminal sermons” and accused them of “willful arrogance.”
“We believed we were superhumans, hid our virus infection and were led to the grave, instead of confessing our mistake,” Anthimos chastised. “It is not humiliating to admit that as a human being you also suffer. It is arrogant to hide it, just so that your ego is not publicly refuted. When death is pending,”magic” is not allowed. Pious egoisms kill!” he declared.
The Metropolitan also emphasized the need, he said, for “all of us to enter the Temple of God one day”, but clarified that “the people showed us — and generally continue to show — perhaps from fatigue, insufficient responsibility on the subject.
“Even before the pandemic, before the ban was imposed,” he reminded believers, “Christians did not come to the temples every Sunday.” Ultimately, this episode shows that even the Church “cannot ultimately direct even our own flock.”
The Metropolitan of Alexandroupolis chastised Christians, including the “pious, those who irresponsibly disregarded the virus and naively believed that they were invulnerable”
And he mentioned “those who …did not understand that when health and life are at stake, then even the warmest believer becomes our enemy.”
The Metropolitan was acerbic in his criticism of the believers whom he called the “immediately pious, who did not believe that there is a coronavirus, as if a hair could not fall out of their head if God does not want it,” warning them to beware of those (priests) who are “now hidden in their burrows, are preparing to justify their criminal sermons, which emanated from their euphoric arrogance — which eventually killed their fellow human beings.”
He told those believers that it was time now to “calm down.”
Lockdown Violations Continue Across the Country
Greek authorities services carried out a total of 50,968 inspections and recorded 1,247 cases of violation of epidemiological alarm measures just on Saturday.
A total of €123,500 in fines and one 15-day suspension were imposed on two companies which were found in violation of the strict lockdown measures.
The main violations concerned the failure to use masks and non-sanctioned trips outside the home.
In the Attica region alone, the Hellenic Police made 19 arrests for violations related to the special operating conditions of businesses. In addition, fifteen-day suspensions were imposed on two companies for non-compliance with rules regarding their hours of operation and for exceeding the allowed number of customers served.
Authorities are moving to enforce the measures amid this new coronavirus waves, which as led to record deaths and hospitalizations. In Thessaloniki, police levied a 3,000-euro fine and a six-month suspended sentence to a female university student who was hosting five friends at a birthday party on Saturday.
Police broke up the festivities at 1:30 AM. Each of her guests were fined 300 euros each.