Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov announced today that Orthodox churches would remain open and that church services would be performed on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, despite the new coronavirus pandemic.
He said that he took this decision because many people were desperate and depressed. At the same time, however, he called on Bulgarians to stay home and pray. The services in big churches will be broadcast live on TV. “It is a difficult decision but I am ready to face criticism. The bishops told me that many people are depressed and desperate. That is why I can not give such an order (to close the churches),” he said at a press conference.
Thousands of faithful go to church every year throughout the country, especially on Easter Sunday. Minister of the Interior, Mladen Marinov, said that police officers would be around the churches so as to maintain order and to ensure that the distance between the faithful would be respected. Bishop Gabriel of Lovech said that, despite the tradition, the priests would not distribute palms on Sunday and stressed that it was not a minor compromise. He added that the service would be performed outside the churches on Easter Sunday. However, the Holy Synod urges the faithful to wear masks.
Many people criticise online the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria for keeping churches open despite the crisis. It is noteworthy that the faithful keep kissing the icons and receiving Holy Communion by using the same spoon. “Do not be afraid! The Lord protects us from any sort of germs. Nobody can be infected by receiving Holy Communion,” said Bishop Gabriel.