Metropolitan Athinagoras of Belgium sent a draft with a list of what needs to be done for the churches to reopen, following a meeting between the representatives of all recognized religions in Belgium with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, Koen Geens.
As the Metropolitan pointed out, “the minister is ready to support our cause, but he informed us that he has no right to decide for himself. A specific process must be followed for the demand for the reopening of religious worship places.”
Addressing the clergy, Metropolitan Athinagoras emphasized that “I assure you, as your shepherd, that I am the first to want the reopening of our parishes. As Orthodox Christians, as well as believers in other denominations and religions, we have respected and will continue to respect the government’s directives. That is why, while waiting for the resumption of the divine worship, I encourage you to continue to use the necessary means to keep the life of our Christians alive.”
He stressed that preparations must be made for the resumption of worship, which means that we must “meet a number of requirements (vademecum) for public health safety.”
During the meeting with the minister of Justice, the minister told us that from today (May 7) the churches could be open for individual silent prayer. To this end, we must already respect what is clearly indicated in this “vademecum”. It will be the first test for all of us, an exercise.
However, he clarified that this was not a worship service but a short individual prayer.
After emphasizing that he was the first to suffer, he pointed out that his responsibility was to give instructions and to observe the government’s measures, as had been recommended by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
“I am afraid that not everyone can understand how difficult it is for a bishop to tell these priests not to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, which is at the center of our life, the essence of our Christian faith, and without which we feel deprived of the most important thing: communion with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” said the Metropolitan.
Finally, he urged the faithful to have a little more patience, and with the help of the Virgin Mary “we will overcome the last difficult stage of this pandemic, confident that God will strengthen us in hope and love, in faith and in strength.”