Holy Synod of UOC publishes an address to the flock on coronavirus
The UOC Synod emphasized that society should recognize the spiritual causes of COVID-19 pandemic and determined the procedure for worship during the quarantine period.
On March 18, 2020, the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church issued an appeal to the people of Ukraine in connection with the threat of the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.
“Being concerned about how not to get sick from the coronavirus infection, the society should recognize the spiritual root causes of everything that happened <...>,” the Information and Education Department of the UOC cites the words of the address of the Synod members. “Today, in the face of an infection threat, Christians should avoid panic, because it is a manifestation of the lack of faith. Instead, one should ask God for forgiveness of their sins through fasting and praying.”
The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church also resolved:
- Due to the state-introduced restrictions on the number of people (up to 10 persons) that can be present in a temple simultaneously, churches should be constantly open to believers;
- If more than 10 people come to the worship, it must be held near the church, in the open air, where parishioners can be at a distance from each other that is acceptable according to sanitary and epidemiological standards;
- If necessary, believers are allowed to participate in the Confession and Communion Sacraments in small groups in temples throughout the day;
- A communion drink after the Holy Communion must be served in disposable cups;
- The icons which are revered through kissing by the congregation must be constantly cleaned with disinfectants; churches and temple lodgings need wet cleaning and airing more often than usually;
- Those who reveal the symptoms of an infectious disease must refrain from attending services and if they feel unwell, they must consult a doctor.
During the quarantine period, members of the Synod also decided to ring the church bells daily, as well as offer special prayers and make requests at litanies during the Divine Liturgy.
“Thanks to such sincere church prayers, the Lord would repeatedly send His gracious help and stop the deadly epidemics in the history of our people. We believe that we will also be able to overcome the current epidemic with joint fervent prayers and efforts,” the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church emphasized.
Below, the UOJ publishes the full text of the address of the Holy Synod of UOC:
by the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
due to the spread of coronavirus COVID-19
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
In the face of the current unexpected trials connected with the threat of an epidemic of a new infectious disease, the Church addresses Her flock with eternally living words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Do not be afraid, just believe!” (Mark 5:36). Faith in God distinguishes a Christian from other members of society. At the same time, faith manifests itself precisely when life’s problems and threats confront a person with the need to extend his hand to God like it was done by the holy Apostle Peter who was drowning in sea waves.
It’s natural for a person to strive to be healthy, because that's how God created us for a blissful life. We learn from the Holy Gospel that the Lord healed a lot of people by giving them physical health. However, such health was not the ultimate goal of these healings. The most important thing is to accept the One who is the Source of life through accepting the gift of healing. That is why physical ailments that carry the threat of death are not the result of an accidental combination of circumstances. The holy Apostle James explains their reason as follows: “A committed sin begets death” (James 1:15). Therefore, being concerned about how not to get sick from the coronavirus infection, the society must realize the spiritual prime causes of everything that has happened. God calls to eradicate the deadly sin that destroys human life by repentance. Especially now, during the Lent, the Orthodox Church offers everything necessary to bring a worthy fruit of repentance, which has always been a sacrifice agreeable to the Lord and which saved humanity from God's execution.
Today, in the face of an infection threat, Christians should avoid panic, because it is a manifestation of the lack of faith. Instead, one should ask God for forgiveness of their sins through fasting and praying. As witnessed by the historical precedents in our Church, Her shepherds would zealously offer their prayers in churches, laboriously performing all the proper divine services and rites of blessing the water for health and overcoming the infection with bell ringing and sprinkling of cities and villages with holy water. In accordance with church practice, during quarantine declared by the state, church bells ring on a daily basis, while at the Holy Liturgy special prayers are offered and requests made at litanies in all churches and monasteries. Thanks to such sincere church prayers, the Lord would repeatedly send His gracious help and stop the deadly epidemics in the history of our people. We believe that the current epidemic will also be overcome with joint fervent prayers and efforts.
The Church urges Her faithful not to disregard generally accepted hygiene standards and to comply with the recommendations of doctors. In the event of signs similar to an infectious disease, one should stay at home, and in case of health deterioration – consult a doctor. Pastoral care of patients at home should be provided taking into account medical requirements. Rectors of temples and monasteries need to make sure that holy icons, which are revered through kissing by the faithful, be constantly wiped with a disinfectant solution. After believers receive the Holy Communion, the communion drink should be served in disposable cups. Special attention should also be paid to the cleanliness of the temple premises, which need regular airing and wet cleaning.
Given the state-introduced restrictions on the number of people (up to 10 persons) that can be present in a temple simultaneously, churches should be constantly open to believers. It is considered permissible, if necessary, to hold the Sacraments of Confession and Communion throughout the day. If more than 10 people came to the worship, it must be held near the church, in the open air, where parishioners can be at a distance from each other that is acceptable according to sanitary and epidemiological standards.
However, all external safeguards will only make sense if we realize that the will of God Who created the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them (see Psalm 145: 6) is that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). May the words of the Psalms inspire us all: “I will raise my eyes up from where help will come; my help is from the Lord, Who created heaven and earth” (Psalm 120: 1-2). According to the holy Apostle Peter, “for this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love." (see 2 Pet 1: 5-7) Therefore, in faith and love as true Christians, we should meet all God-sent trials with sincere prayer to our heavenly Intercessor, Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the Saints, "giving ourselves, each other, and our whole life into Christ’s hand!"