The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America (ACOB-USA) recommends further compliance with the sanitary norms for Covid-19 prevention during the following period, when Orthodox Christians celebrate Palm Sunday, the Holy Week and Easter.
A recent declaration lists strong recommendations regarding religious services: they should be officiated only with a maximum number of five members of the clergy and without distributing to the faithful offerings such as palms or willow branches, flowers, candles, eggs and other.
The priests can offer spiritual guidance over the phone, while administering the Holy Sacrament of Confession remains at the discretion of the local Bishop.
“Whereas some Bishops might implement more stringent practices out of love and concern for their flock and broader society, less stringent approaches will put the Faithful and their Clergy at high risk and should be avoided by all Bishops”, mentions the assembly.
“These measures mitigate the risk of transmission due to proximity. We affirm that the Eucharist is truly the Body and truly the Blood of Christ. These measures should in no way be seen to diminish this sacred and eternal Truth”, the bishops explain.
Their declaration further states that unity in obedience is in itself a form of communion.
“As the Church tells us when to fast, and when not to fast, we listen and do our best to obey these instructions. In like manner, when we suffer together in our isolation and are unable even to receive the Eucharist because of mandated distancing, we are in reality, due to circumstance, also in full communion as the Body of Christ.”
The ACOB-USA Executive Committee published the press release after consulting with experts from public health and public order, with theologians and pastoral care professionals.
The statement is signed by Greek Archbishop Elpidophoros, Antiochian Metropolitan Joseph, Carpatho-Russian Metropolitan Gregory, Serbian Bishop Irinej, by Romanian Metropolitan Nicolae of the Americas, Bulgarian Metropolitan Joseph, Georgian Bishop Saba, and Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America.
They mention that the rules imposed by the authorities have helped slowing the spread of COVID-19 and thank health professionals, delivery personnel, and clergy who risk their safety in a sacrificial manner to protect people’s health and salvation.
Photo courtesy of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America