No law or decree violations were identified by the police and Attorney General Giorgos Savvides after examining the controversial statements made by Morphou Bishop Neophytos, who called on the faithful to go to services despite the current restrictive measures in place against the spread of coronavirus, the police said on Friday.
“His comments were formulated in such a way that neither the police nor the attorney general found any criminal evidence,” police spokesperson Christos Andreou said.
Andreou, however, said the police will remain vigilant and make sure all the new measures regarding churches are respected.
“People who ignore the new measures and attend services, as well as those responsible for allowing anyone inside the churches’ premises will be held accountable and fined accordingly,” he said.
The latest round of measures means that church services must be held without a congregation while weddings, funerals and baptisms can have a maximum of ten people.
The Morphou Bishop said on Thursday that “the church has had its own sacred tradition and its own laws and sacred rules for two thousand years to ensure and maintain the psychosomatic health of the faithful.”
He also added that churches “cannot become places of policing.”
Archbishop Chrystsotomos, however, responded to his comments later on Thursday, claiming that there is no place in the Church for bravado.
The Archbishop said they would ask the government to reconsider, but that for now bishops and the faithful ought to observe all measures announced by the state.
“We are strict, and will continue like that because this is the only way to be rid of the coronavirus,” the Archbishop told state broadcaster CyBC.
Limassol Bishop Athanasios accused the state of forcing them to hold mass without churchgoers, adding that the Holy Synod will meet on Tuesday to try to convince the authorities to allow people to go to church and receive holy communion during Christmas.
In a circular to his district’s clergy, Athanasios said he understood and shared the sorrow over the closure of churches but also their concern on how to manage the unprecedented situation.
After nine months into the pandemic, “we all feel tired and disappointed and we all worry about the long-term effects this trial will bring.”
The Limassol bishop, which has previously opposed government decrees, said God and the Church were the sole consolation and refuge.
“While our churches should have remained open and the faithful given the capability to go to church, receive communion, confess, and receive the Church’s grace – by observing the measures the state of emergency we are going through requires – the state imposes the performance of holy masses without the presence of the faithful, something, which is essentially tantamount to closing the churches,” the bishop said.