Thousands of Greeks yesterday returned to church after weeks of staying away as a ban on mass gatherings to curb the spread of COVID-19 was eased.
It was a special moment for those who gathered from early morning in the courtyard of Ayios Spiridonas Church in Piraeus, where the melodious chants of the liturgy were broadcast on loudspeakers and heard down to the sea port.
“I can’t describe my feelings. After two-and-a-half months of quarantine we are in our church again,” said Stella Kasimati, 76. “We are allowed what we were deprived of for two-and-a-half months, going to church and holy communion,” she told reporters.
Greeks were not only deprived of weekly congregations, but had to spend the highlight of their religious calendar, Easter, which was on April 19, indoors. The lockdown was introduced in the middle of March.
Normally adjoining pews were replaced with chairs inside the church and in its courtyard as social distancing rules applied. Chairs were set 2m apart with boundaries in the courtyard marked with red-and-white masking tape.
Disposable gloves and antiseptic were available at the entrance. Some people kissed icons, as is customary in the Greek Orthodox religion. A woman wiped the icon with an antiseptic before the next person approached.
Church warden Petros Anagnostakis, 74, said that preparations to reopen the church had been ongoing for about a week.
“Today is a great celebration, we are overjoyed and touched, it’s a great celebration for us,” he said.
In unison, churchgoers recited the Creed, a declaration of faith in God and Jesus.
Greece has recorded a lower number of COVID-19 cases and deaths than other countries. By yesterday, it had recorded 2,819 cases and 162 deaths.
“I think it’s a miracle that Greece didn’t have that many deaths or people sick,” Kasimati said. “I believe that was help from God.”
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