Following existing health protocols is enough to protect people expected to gather at cross throwing ceremonies on January 6, Archbishop Chrysostomos said on Monday, following reports that new Covid restrictions might affect the religious celebrations.
As the government is expected to announce additional measures this week to contain the rapid spread of Omicron variant, the archbishop said face masks and social distancing are enough to protect crowds gathered outdoors to watch the traditional ceremony to mark Epiphany whereby a priest throws a cross into the sea and swimmers jump into the cold water to retrieve it.
“I do not think one will transmit to the other,” he said.
“Who will stop the people from going?” he asked, suggesting that it will be difficult for the state to keep people from visiting the sea where the ceremonies take place.
However, he explained that if the government manages to find a way to keep the public away from the ceremony, then the cross throwing will not take place this year.
The new variant is estimated to be the reason behind the recent surge of daily coronavirus cases that surpassed 5,000.
So far, churches have been excluded from most coronavirus restrictions, while no police checks are being carried out on the premises.
A small portion of clerics remain unvaccinated, while Morphou bishop Neophytos has also been criticised for urging the public to ignore the health protocols and for speaking against the anti-coronavirus vaccination.
Commenting on the issue, the archbishop said he will offer another chance for those to get vaccinated or else he will have to make relevant decisions “for the good of the people”.
“I will give them one last chance, may the pandemic go away, but if it does not go away, I will start punishing them…I offer four million a year for the clergy’s payroll. I can deduct what I give. I can punish them and if they do not like it, the door is open,” he said.
Last year, January 6 church service took place with a maximum capacity of 75 people or one person every 3sqm. The use of face mask was mandatory.
No cross-throwing ceremonies were allowed to take place.