Are the authorities trying to stop the church from killing people?

Although public outrage and pressure eventually forced the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church to urge parishioners not to attend church during the pandemic, not all of its hierarchs actually follow this advice. Moreover, we are talking not only about the priests of some rural churches, but also about the heads of large church dioceses.

For example, Bishop Kamenka and Bishop Kamyshevsky Mefodiy directly called on parishioners not to be afraid of contracting the coronavirus and to come to Orthodox Easter in church. «We will all die anyway, sooner or later,» he said, adding that «the fear of death should not be in the temple, here, in the temple, we have victory over death, and we participate in this victory over death here, in the temple.»

In response to public outrage, the Ekaterinburg diocese also stood by the bishop. Nikolai Tsukanov, the presidential envoy to the Ural Federal District, responded to such behavior during a meeting with regional officials:

«I heard from your reports that the source is Easter and Palm Sunday, when everyone tries to get infected. It is necessary to address believers and Orthodox believers and ask them to stay at home and take all necessary precautions when people come to the churches. But try not to exaggerate, it’s a delicate issue. And the decision — I am addressing the governors — it is up to you, you should make the decision and interact with the Russian Orthodox Church».

The governors themselves, not only in the Urals, but also in other regions, react differently to the situation. For example, the administration of the Tambov region banned all mass rituals and ceremonies from April 14 to 30. This was done after a local priest of the Russian Orthodox Church, Igor Grudanov, announced that they would hold Easter services. In the Voronezh region, churches will be closed from April 14 to 19 by order of the region’s chief sanitary doctor.

But while Russian regions have to put up with such actions by the authorities, and extremist Orthodox Christians have to comply with them, similar actions by the authorities in Muslim republics are used by them to stir up inter-religious discord.

Thus, the well-known provocateur and head of the so-called Society of Russian Culture of Tatarstan, Mikhail Shcheglov, accused the authorities of the republic of «dangerous blasphemy and persecution of Orthodox Christians,» which they have started «in the very center of Orthodox Russia.»

Meanwhile, in Orthodox Ukraine, local authorities do not hesitate to deal with those who intend to put people’s lives and health in mortal danger. For example, Boris Filatov, the mayor of the city of Dnipro (formerly Dnipropetrovsk), wrote the following in this connection on his page:

«Dear Clergy. The press service here asks me to write an eloquent appeal to everyone to stay at home for Easter. But I have no words. There are only expressions (…) Everything the authorities wanted to say to you was said at the meeting in the diocese on April 9. I understood that some did not hear. Then again. In addition to police fines and criminal proceedings, you will receive a whole series of measures from the city authorities, which will be rolled back to the drinking fountains and scrap metal collection points. Do you want to sit without water and light, with sealed doors and dug up streets? We will give you all this. You can also expect the cancellation of land documents and any permits for reconstruction».

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