In response to a surge in COVID-19 infections in Greece, the country's government has instituted restrictions requiring churchgoers to provide proof that they are not infected with COVID before they may attend services.
As reported by the European news agency Euractive on November 18, Greek churchgoers are now required to provide proof of vaccination or a record of past infection in order to attend services. The said new rule entered into force on Sunday.
Greek Church's ruling council, the Holy Synod, was quoted as stating on Monday that people "who work or volunteer in the Holy Churches have neither the capability nor the power of a public good as the police do."
Despite this, the Holy Synod cautioned that it could not ensure that all Christians would comply with the safety precautions, including wearing face mask and keeping a distance of at least three feet from each other.
Additionally, Ekathimerini quoted the Synod as stating that their "[Workers or volunteer staff] have neither capabilities, guard authority, nor public [e.g. police] powers," while simultaneously reiterating their support for "the great effort on the part of our doctors and nurses to deal with the pandemic" and encouraging "everyone to get vaccinated."
The Synod was emphatic, however, in emphasizing its commitment to supporting the right of everyone to exercise their own free will and make their own moral decisions.
"The firm position of our Church is that the choice of vaccination is not a matter of good faith or confession, but an object of medical science and an act of individual and social responsibility," it said.
"Any opposing view, even of the clergy, does not represent the Church of Greece, which is officially governed and expressed only by the Holy Synod," it noted.
Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported that the Holy Synod directed all parishes to urge parishioners to attend services with vaccination or negative test paperwork.
Now, in conjunction with the government, the Greek Orthodox Church promotes the jab.
While Church officials often exhorted Greeks to obey regulations, they have been hesitant to react to bishops who have expressed open skepticism about vaccination or even called for the population to disregard safety limits.
As opposed to this, a bishop in the eastern Aegean Sea who oversees parishes on the island of Lesbos reportedly issued an order suspending clergy without pay who were not vaccinated.
More than 16,000 people have reportedly died in Greece, a country with a population of over 11 million. As of this writing, 62% of the population has been vaccinated, which is somewhat lower than the EU average of 63%.
According to the New York Times, church officials have sent letters to priests earlier this year in which they said that being vaccinated against COVID-19 was "the greatest act of responsibility toward one's fellow human being."
Churchgoers, on the other hand, told Reuters that the need for the unvaccinated pay for their tests, a cost that may mount up for those with families, kept them away from Sunday services in greater numbers than normal.
In all four churches they visited on the Sunday before the article ran, there was only one volunteer who performed checks with parishioners who were unfamiliar with them.