After closing for well over one month due to Coronavirus, Ethiopian Church opening door to worshipers
By Bernabas Shiferaw
The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has decided to reopen churches which had been closed in early April due to the fear of COVID-19. The press release issued by the Holy Synod after the conclusion of its council stresses that this will be done “in a careful manner”. The reason behind the Synod’s decision is that “the disruption of Church services has affected the spiritual lives of the congregation and because they cannot live separated from the Church.”
The decision to close churches had been controversial at that time. Many had asked if Church services could not be carried out with the care necessary to avoid the spread of the virus and how the Church can disrupt services that are considered essential like Christening of children and funeral prayers.
During the council, a report was presented by the team that had been established by the Church to carry out activities necessary to avoid the spread of the virus inside Church compounds. According to the report, the police had intervened, unasked, in the matter and begun guarding doors of churches and acted in ways that are considered offences as per the tradition of the Church. Moreover, they had also taken forceful measures against members of the clergy and the congregation. The report details instances of forceful action and misconduct by police officers. For these reasons, the team had asked that all preventive measures in and around churches should be carried out by Sunday school members and youths who are members of the congregation.
The council of the Holy Synod is held twice a year, in May and in November. Most of the members of the Holy Synod come to Addis Ababa from all over the country and from other parts of the world. The decision to close churches was made by the Standing Synod, a committee of five Synod members which acts and makes decisions on behalf of the Holy Synod until the Council of Holy Synod is held.
Reportedly, members of the Holy Synod, after hearing the report, criticized the Standing Synod for its decision to close down churches and for allowing intervention by the police. Members of the Standing Synod, in response, have responded saying “the measure was taken in our name but we do not know anything about it.”
Accordingly, the Holy Synod decided for the churches to reopen. Preventive measures are to be taken during services but they are to be implemented by the church administration with the cooperation of Sunday school members and youth members of the congregation.
The Holy Synod, in its press release, has also called for Charity among citizens at this difficult time and urged the people to continue supporting the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
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