Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium has issued a new encyclical regarding the reopening of the temples.
As he points out, the Prime Minister of Belgium announced a few days ago that from Monday, June 8, the performance of the sacred services in the parish churches will begin, with the observance of specific measures.
In particular, the application of the rules of social distancing, especially the distance of 1.5 meters between two people, is required.
The maximum number of people per building is limited to one person per 10 sq.m., with a maximum number of 100 people per building until June 30, while from July 1, 200 people per building will be allowed.
Physical contact between many people is also forbidden as well as their contact with objects, while the necessary products for hand hygiene will be provided at the entrance and exit of the temples.
As he explains, “all regulations should be followed in the light of the obedience and interpretation of the laws of this country. We, as leaders of the Church, must shoulder the responsibility so that we are not to be blamed for anything during this pandemic. We live in countries that are not Orthodox and do not interfere in the internal functioning of our Church, respecting religious freedoms. On the other hand, the political authorities expect us to do everything possible to ensure the safety of all, especially public health.”
He also asks people “not to compare the conditions we know in the Benelux countries to the traditional Orthodox countries. It’s not right to do that.”
The whole situation is very painful for a Bishop, who wants the churches to be full of believers and the vast majority of them to participate, essentially and worthy, to the Holy Communion.
“We pray to God to help us overcome this crisis safely and to be able to perform the Divine Liturgy again as a true thanksgiving to all God’s gifts.”