Greek Metropolitan Ieronymos of Kalavryta and Aigialeia on the Peloponnesian peninsula was fined 1,500 euro ($1,850) on Wednesday for conducting the blessing of the waters, the traditional rite of the Feast of the Epiphany, in the open.
Two swimmers, who dived into the harbor of the town of Aigio to retrieve the Holy Cross, were also fined 300 euros each for breaking the coronavirus rules.
Greek authorities had eventually allowed the opening of the churches — with restrictions — for the Epiphany celebration, one of the most important events in the Orthodox calendar.
But the Church hierarchy agreed that the blessing of the waters should take place indoors and not in the open to prevent crowding.
Ieronymos, the Archbishop of all Greece, announced that he himself would not make use of the Holy Synod’s special permission to go to any coastal area or other waters for the purposes of performing such a religious ritual.
A press release from the Holy Synod’s press emphasized that by this action, the Archbishop desired “to give a good example.” The Church of Greece’s statement stressed that “having a high sense of responsibility towards both God and people — since the start of the pandemic — it remains aligned with state institutions in the fight for the protection of public health, sets a positive example for the observance of health safety restrictions, and stands by the state’s efforts to reduce the pandemic’s impact on people’s lives.”
The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Jesus’ baptism during the Epiphany.
In Thessaloniki, some called for the blessing of the waters at sea, near the city’s iconic White Tower.
Police and Coast Guard forces are spread across the city’s waterfront to prevent the event from taking place.
A woman did, however, manage to throw a cross, attached to a string, into the sea, while shouting “shame!” At least three people have been detained so far in the incident.