Greek Orthodox Church Faces Criticism as Virus Hits Its Ranks

Conservative government officials have mainly blamed the overcrowding of bars and restaurants and appear to refuse to point a finger at the church, despite the fact that the disease has spread significantly through clergymen in recent weeks – especially among older members, the most vulnerable for the virus are.

At least six of the Church’s 80 bishops in Greece have contracted the virus, including 62-year-old Bishop Ioannis of Lagadas in northern Greece, who died from it on November 15. The actual number of clergymen infected is unknown, however. Some have not made their illness public, calling it a “personal problem,” church officials said.

“Some clergymen, including hierarchs, appear to act as if they believe they are immune to the disease,” said George Demacopoulos, co-director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University. “We are seeing the tragic results of this way of thinking.”

Although Greece initially did relatively well at tackling the pandemic, the second wave has proven to be more difficult to slow down. As of Friday, the country had 113,185 confirmed cases and 2,804 deaths, with the most deaths recorded in the last month.

Archbishop Ieronymos tested positive for Covid-19 on November 16, two days after meeting Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to discuss the opening of churches for Christmas. (Mr. Mitsotakis then tested negative).

Other Orthodox churches in Europe are also affected by the virus.

The Orthodox Patriarch of Serbia, Irinej, 90, and the Patriarch of Montenegro, Amfilohije, 82, both died from it in the past few weeks. Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios, a 91-year-old Greek, was flown to the same Athens hospital that treated Archbishop Ieronymos last month for treatment.

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