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Last service: Orthros & Divine Liturgy for the Holy Apostles Peter & Paul

Father Christodoulos speaks to us about the Holy Apostles

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July 3rd 2020

Beloved in the Lord,

Without a doubt, our world has changed significantly over the course of just a few months. Things such as social distancing, virtual meetings, and quarantines, which seemed obscure and rare concepts to many of us just a short time ago, are now commonplace realities that occupy a prominent place in the front of our minds. However, despite this new and strange existence we are collectively experiencing, our Lord remains unchanged. Truly, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Likewise, our faith in His saving grace remains undiminished in the face of the challenges and difficulties of these days.

As you know, I have allowed the parishes of the Metropolis of Denver to reopen their doors for corporate worship, within the bounds of local law and specific directives outlined in Protocols 20-08 and 20-09. This has been done to begin restoring essential spiritual care for our parishioners, and at the same time working to responsibly mitigate risks posed by the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. I thank the clergy and lay leadership of our parishes who have diligently worked in this regard.

While the directives provided in the previous protocols remain in effect, I am writing to you today in order to allow some additional parish functions, and to address concerns which have been expressed. As a reminder, individuals who have been exposed to the virus, experienced symptoms, or who are part of vulnerable groups (elderly, immunocompromised, under a physician’s care, etc.), should remain home, and may be ministered to individually. As well, we recognize that the pandemic and related situations continue to evolve. Therefore, parishes must continue to monitor legal mandates applicable to their location at any given time.

With these things in mind, I am now giving the blessing for non-liturgical gatherings to be held in our parishes, not to exceed a total of twenty people, where permissible by local law. This should allow for in-person parish council and committee meetings, catechism and Bible studies, and other similar gatherings. Certainly, social distancing guidelines and personal hygiene precautions are to be applied. Since youth Sunday School classes are not currently in session, they will be handled as a separate matter later in the summer, prior to the beginning of the new school year.

In various locations in our Metropolis, a discussion is taking place regarding the wearing of protective masks in church. It seems that certain individuals feel very strongly about this issue. Unfortunately, some have taken a very “hard-line” stance on one side or another, which is concerning.

As with many aspects of the pandemic response, there is little consistency in the various state and local orders. Some do not require the wearing of masks while others require it. Moreover, among those that do require masks, some grant exceptions to houses of worship. As stated in previous directives, in places where the wearing of masks is expressly required in houses of worship, they are also required in our churches. Where masks are not required by law they are not mandated by me at this time. However, I paternally encourage the wearing of masks as a prudent measure for each parishioner, and for the sake of those around them.

Regardless of the situation, it is imperative that we not allow the topic of masks, or any other, to become a divisive issue in our parishes. I ask that everyone instead practice Christian love and understanding. That we recognize and respect the choices of our brothers and sisters in a manner consistent with Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Church, and thus fulfill God’s will.

It has been reported that although the overall number of COVID cases has increased in recent days, that the mortality rate has decreased. We offer thanks to almighty God for this and pray that the trend of deaths continues to go down. Nevertheless, we must all continue to exercise diligence, caution, and sustained concern for one another.

May our loving and merciful God bless, strengthen, and protect us all toward this goal, toward peace and security, to His greater glory, and to our salvation.

With paternal blessings,

+Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver

Between 23-25 June 2020, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was convened for its regular meeting of the current month at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Geneva. On the first day, the synodal members were engaged in their cooperative work with many of the Hierarchs of the Throne in Europe that were invited as well.

During this meeting, the Official Letters of Their Beatitudes the Orthodox Primates that had been received thus far in response to the letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch to them of May 17th of this year, on the issue of the mode of distribution of Holy Communion that emerged after the appearance of the coronavirus pandemic, were read and discussed. It was satisfactorily determined that their opinion coincided with that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This consists of the following:

a) The Mystery of the Divine Eucharist is non-negotiable, because we believe that through it it is transmitted to the faithful the Body and Blood of the Savior Christ “unto the remission of sins and life eternal” and it is impossible that through this Mystery of Mysteries any disease might be communicated to those who partake. For this reason, the Church remains steadfast and immovable in its teaching towards the essence of the Mystery of Holy Communion.

b) As to the mode of distributing the ineffable Mysteries to the faithful, the Church, respecting Holy Tradition that is interwoven inextricably with the daily ecclesiastical practice and kenotic experience, and as the guardian and vigilant watchman of those traditions handed down from the Holy Father, finds no need for a change of this mode, especially under pressure from external factors.

At the same time, the Mother Church, mindful of the special needs of Her children in the Diaspora, urges the Chief Shepherds who serve in the Diaspora that with a pastoral sensitivity, responsibility, and consciousness, to temporarily make, by economia, accommodations to problematic situations that arise from local laws of the State for the greater spiritual benefit of the Christian people, always in coordination with the Sacred Center at the Phanar.

In Geneva, 25, June 2020

From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod

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