Greece’s government has asked for the Prosecutor’s office to investigate two incidents of priests allegedly offering Holy Communion to parishioners despite the ban on church attendance as part of coronavirus measures and contrary to instructions offered by the Holy Synod.

The incidents took place at St Nicholas Church in Koukaki, Athens as well as St Spyridon Church in Corfu.

Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias expressed his outrage. “What happened today in churches in Koukaki and Corfu is a violation of the law and of the Holy Synod’s orders and put the lives of citizens and public health in great danger. I contacted the Minister of Justice so that he can ask the prosecuting authorities to intervene,” he said.

In Corfu, reports that the holy relics of Saint Spyridon were put on show inside the church and Holy Communion was performed despite prohibitions. There were 15 people reportedly present at the ceremony.

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The Archdiocese of Athens also released a message: “The Holy Archdiocese of Athens is investigating the incident occurred at the Holy Church of Saint Nicholas in Koukaki and will take immediate action. It is recalled that the decisions of the Holy Synod are binding on all the clergy of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens and the Holy Metropolises of the Church of Greece and must be strictly observed. The Holy Synod faithfully follows all the instructions of the competent authorities of the State regarding the effective response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Greek authorities are concerned by attempts to flout strict lockdown measures in place in Greece during the week leading up to Orthodox Easter on 19 April. Traditionally, there is a mass exodus of people leaving cities to celebrate in the countryside and there are outdoor celebrations all around the country.

The Greek police have already imposed 300-euro fines on people leaving Athens.

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