A Greek priest was arrested at a monastery near Larissa on Sunday for defying the coronavirus restrictions and conducting the liturgy with dozens of parishioners present.
The 37-year-old priest from the Holy Monastery of Agia Paraskevi was fined 1,500 euros, and remained in custody on Sunday.
On Monday, he was sentenced to three months in prison, which was suspended.
According to Mega TV, about 40 worshippers who were attending the service were also fined.
Last November, a priest in Chalkidiki, northern Greece, was also fined for defying the restrictions.
Church defies government
The latest incident highlights the clash between many Orthodox priests, particularly in rural areas, and civil authorities over the restrictions imposed to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
On Monday the Holy Synod, the governing body of the Church of Greece, issued a statement which laid out its opposition to the Greek government’s intentions to impose a stricter lockdown this week, in which the great holiday of Epiphany is celebrated.
The Synod said that the churches would open exactly as originally planned for the Feast of the Epiphany on Wednesday, celebrating the liturgy and the iconic annual ritual of the “blessing of the waters”.
“The Law Cannot be Applied at Whim”
In response to the Holy Synod’s decision, the government released a statement Monday evening, stressing that the Church is not exempt from the law:
“The law cannot be applied at whim, so that whoever disagrees with it can just ignore it,” the statement reads.
Greece called on the Church to consider the country’s delicate position in terms of the virus, stressing that the country’s transmission rate must decrease for schools to reopen safely in January:
“We trust that the Greek Church will fully comprehend the weight of these critical moments for our society, as the Church has acted with responsibility until today.”