Friday, September 17, 2021

Pastoral Encyclical to Clergy Regarding Protective Measures Against the Coronavirus Pandemic (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Dear Fathers and Brothers,

As you know, our country and the whole world has been suffering for more than a year and a half from the so-called health crisis, SARS-CoV-2, that causes infection and the disease of Covid-19.

In this matter the State takes the appropriate measures, coordinating with the World Organizations for the health of its citizens, and the Church treats this matter with seriousness, sobriety and responsibility.

Among the measures to prevent infection and disease, and perhaps one of the most important, is the vaccine, as is the case with many other diseases. The Standing Holy Synod took specific decisions on this issue:

On January 13, 2021, it decided: The Holy Synod "closely monitors the issue of vaccinations, through the Synodal Committee on Bioethics, which, with its continuous reports, informs the Synod. In this context, the Holy Synod was informed that, following an investigation, the Covid-19 vaccines currently used in our country do not require the use of embryonic cell cultures for their production.

On the occasion of the above information, the Holy Synod reiterates, especially to those of its members who show a special sensitivity to the scenarios of threats and dangers, based unilaterally and uncontrollably on inflated news reports especially found either on the internet or permeating with various prejudices, that the choice of vaccination is not so much a theological or ecclesiastical issue, but mainly medical-scientific and is a free personal choice of each person in communication with his doctor, without the vaccination constituting a reduction in life." (Press Release of the Holy Synod 1/13/2021).

On July 14, 2021, it decided: "The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, knowing that vaccination is a maximum act of responsibility towards fellow human beings, recommends to all, in coordination with their physicians, to make use of the gift granted to us by God, to protect themselves, but also every human being "for whom Christ died" (Rom. 14:15). And it wants to authentically assure that this vaccine does not come into any contradiction with the Hagiographic, Patristic and Canonical teaching of our Holy Church" (Synodal Encyclical 3074/1365 - 7/14/2021).

Because we are not an unorganized body, but a "good army" (1 Tim. 1:18) and we must obey the decisions of the Holy Synod, that is why we must be in tune with what is decided by the Holy Synod.

This practically means that we should not be indifferent to the treatment of this disease, that is why we should make use of the vaccine, unless a doctor who monitors the health of each and every one of you and is scientifically qualified decides something different.

However, I consider it unacceptable to treat the coronavirus vaccine with paratheological arguments, political expediencies and conspiracy theories, which are directed at Clergy and Christians. It is one thing to have a scientific dialogue and scientific dispute for the improvement on how we can confront the virus, within the scientific bodies, which is an appropriate act, and it is another thing to resist the vaccine with paratheological and conspiratorial views, which unfortunately are being quickly distributed in social networks and are causing confusion among Christians.

I have observed that the anti-vaccination movement in America is prevalent within fundamentalist extremist Protestant circles and among people possessed by various principles of Eastern religions. I do not want to refer here to people who have other personal, political and economic interests.

Unfortunately, what is sometimes expressed by these fundamentalist Protestant circles in America is also conveyed to the people of the Orthodox Church, without them realizing that all this is lacking a basis in theology and the ecclesiastical consciousness. It is unfortunate that many who have an anti-vaccine mentality are distinguished by a lack of serious theological thought, ecclesiological consciousness and, ultimately, serious scientific arguments.

I read what is written against vaccines and I am surprised by the confusion of such thoughts and writings, but also by the question, because "common sense is thought to be common." Unfortunately, such confusion prevails, so that what is written in one paragraph is annulled in the other, so their thoughts are not clear. The scientific is intertwined with the "metaphysical", theology with paratheology, Christology with Antichristology and Demonology.

However, science is not a religion or a para-religion, but it is judged by scientific criteria, just as Orthodox theology has nothing to do with fantasies and extremisms. All this is dominated by error, which comes from the deluded mind. And as the empirical theologians say, it is easy to be deceived, but difficult to be undeceived, to get rid of error.

As Clergy we are obliged to observe the health measures, so that we do not become a cause and occasion for the Christians whom we shepherd to be infected, because in such a case they turn against the Church and we are responsible.

I would like to point out that Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite has ruled twice at least, from what I know, that when a pandemic occurs, if a Christian does not pay attention  and becomes the cause of death, he must be penanced as a murderer.

Specifically, in his Rudder (footnote to the 66th Apostolic Canon) he writes: "Note also that anyone is condemned as a murderer that in time of a plague or pestilence goes to houses or towns and infects others when he well knows that he himself is infected and thus becomes the cause of many deaths."

In his Handbook on Confession (On the Sixth Commandment) he writes: "Thou shalt not murder. They commit a wrong against this commandment ... who in time of plague, while knowing they are infected, comes together with others and infects them. They are risk takers, for they murder themselves and all the others."

This is why I recommend to the spiritual fathers to ask those who come to them for confession, among other things: "Do you know if while you were infected with the plague you were among others and infected someone who died? Because if that is the case then I have to penance you as a murderer."

You understand, then, the seriousness of the issue. Whoever in a time of a pandemic, as in our time, does not pay attention and infects others, they are judged with the penance of murder! One basic way to protect ourselves and others is to be vaccinated, as is the case with other diseases.

If your personal doctor, knowing your medical history, advises you not to get the vaccine, it does not mean that you should not take the other necessary measures, and of course it does not mean that you would advise Christians not to get vaccinated. In such a case, you will have to answer to God, according to what the great teacher of the Church, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, writes.

Please take the above seriously and do not be indifferent to this serious issue, because, among other things, you will be presented in practice as differentiating yourself from the Synodal and Hierarchical institution of our Church.

Let us pray to God to give us physical and spiritual health, especially prudence, discernment and inner peace, which are so necessary in our time, so that we do not end up in extreme situations.

With warm prayers

The Metropolitan

† Of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou HIEROTHEOS

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.