After weeks of lockdown was eased, thousands of Greeks returned to the church as of May 17 for the mass gatherings for the first time in the courtyard of Ayios Spiridonas Church in Piraeus since the pandemic hit the country, as per local media reports. The melodious chants of the Sunday liturgy were broadcasted on the loudspeakers and could be heard down at the seaport as people attended the service in the church.
Weekly congregations in Greece were reportedly banned and people had to spend the highlight of the religious calendar, Easter, which fell on April 19 indoors. In mid-March, the government imposed a total movement ban and suspended the assembly at the religious sites, including the churches, to stem the novel coronavirus transmission among the communities. However, the services resumed as adjoining pews were replaced with chairs inside the church area and in its courtyard as social distancing rules were adhered to by the mass. Also, the chairs were kept at least two meters apart with boundaries marked with red and white masking tape to avoid close contact among the public, media reports confirmed.
Customary in the Greek Orthodox religion, some people were spotted touching and embracing the holy emblems in the church. However, a woman stood disinfecting the icon with the sanitizer as another individual walked in to touch it, as per the reports. Disposable gloves and antiseptic were also kept for the visitors to avoid catching the strain of the virus. Churchgoers were also seen reciting the Creed, a declaration of faith in God and Jesus.
Churchwarden Petros Anagnostakis was quoted as saying that the arrangements to reopen the church had been ongoing for about a week. However, today (May 17) was supposed to be a great celebration. He added, the community was overjoyed to have the mass organized, and everyone was visibly moved, a news agency reported.
Over 2,819 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have been recorded so far, out of which, at least 1,374 recovered in Greece. Retail shops and businesses were allowed to resume operations as the nation entered its second phase of the lockdown imposed to curb the transmission of the COVID-19 disease, according to reports. However, shopping malls and departmental stores still remain shut.
(Image Credit: AP)