Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of all Greek Orthodox Christians worldwide, had stern words on Tuesday for those who are skeptical of the coronavirus vaccine, encouraging the faithful to be inoculated when their time comes.
In a statement he issued, which was shared to the American faithful by Archbishop Elpidophoros late on Tuesday, Bartholomew explained the reasoning for his position: “The pandemic changed our social life, our daily life, our participation in the life of the Church. All this time we are shocked by the sufferings of countless of our fellow human beings and are impressed by the self-sacrifice of doctors and nurses.
“Unacceptable” to deny reality
“That is why it is unacceptable,” he went on, “in the face of so many victims and so much pain, to have people who deny the reality of the pandemic, who consider it a fabrication of ‘various circles.’
“It is even more provocative,” he said pointedly, “when such views are expressed by Christians, often by clergy, who self-proclaim to be defenders of a God of their own.
“Indifference” to fellow human beings
“The New Testament affirms that whoever does not love man, cannot love God. These people are indifferent to the protection of fellow human beings. The rejection of the mask and all precautionary measures does not arise simply from ignorance but from the necrosis of love within them,” he added sternly.
“Science, when it opens auspicious prospects for the future of mankind, is a gift from heaven,” he continued.
“Our faith certainly is not affected when we follow the instructions of experts. Nor do the restrictions on participation in the Services diminish the importance of the Church and what is conducted in it for the life of the faithful. Protective measures are not directed against the Church. They protect the faithful, who, like everyone else, are just as vulnerable to the virus.”
“A responsibility” to others
In answer to questions regarding whether or not he would willingly receive the vaccine, the Patriarch was adamant.
“Of course I will get the vaccine,” he retorted. “Besides, I think this is required based on my age. I am close to 81, so I belong to the age group that needs to be vaccinated.
“But it is not only a matter of necessity or choice; it is also a responsibility to fellow human beings. That is why I hope that a large part of the world’s population will soon be vaccinated for the spread of the deadly virus to stop. Of course, until then, we must all strictly observe the protective measures so as not to mourn more victims.”