“I do not distinguish the faithful between vaccinated and unvaccinated”
“The doors of our churches will be open to all”
With an important encyclical addressed to the God-loving bishops, the gracious clergy and the monastic communities of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia addresses, in an informative and responsible manner, the issues related to the pandemic of coronavirus and its untold consequences, drawing attention to the appropriate means to deal with them.
Among other things, he notes that vaccination against Covid-19, and all vaccinations, is above all a medical and scientific matter, noting that the Church listens to experts and adding that “we urge our people to get vaccinated, without forcing anyone, respecting the freedom of each person.
In addition, on the possibility of prohibiting the entry of the unvaccinated faithful into places of worship in Australia, His Eminence Bishop Makarios underlines that “personally, I will never agree with a measure which divides the faithful between vaccinated and not vaccinated. The doors of our churches, ”he emphasizes,“ will be open to all. I do not accept that there are people who wish to come to church and we will not allow them.
However, specifying that the difficult and important questions must be resolved through understanding, dialogue and by presenting alternative proposals, he announces that he is already in talks with the authorities and certain religious leaders of our country and that a team of doctors has been tasked with the preparation of a scientific and well-documented plan, with specific guidance so that the entry of those who are not vaccinated can be allowed into our churches. This plan will be submitted by the Archdiocese of Australia to the respective states along with the claim regarding the human right of every person to be able to attend church.
The encyclical follows:
by the mercy of God, Archbishop of the Most Holy Archdiocese of Australia, Primate and Exarch of all Oceania, to the God-loving bishops, to the gracious clergy, to the monastic brotherhoods of the Orthodox Church of Australia, grace and peace of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Most honorable brother bishops and my beloved children,
Two years are almost approaching from December 2019, when the spread of the pandemic started from the city of Wuhan in China to the whole world. This new unfortunate situation has caused global unrest, led to the death of millions of our fellow human beings, and imposed incalculable consequences and changes on the economic, social, political, existential, mental and even ecclesial aspects of people’s daily lives. The closure of churches and the ban on public worship, the manner in which Holy Communion is given, and other related issues constituted on the set of causes of coercion and deception, intense dialogue, but also conflict between l ‘Church and state and legal systems.
In this context, we often find that key issues, such as the pandemic, are discussed by unqualified people, namely those without theological skills and scientific knowledge. Indeed, the assertions of these people, notwithstanding the fact that they are superficial and denouncing, are formulated long before the ecclesial voice responsible for the official Church, clearly determined to underestimate and underestimate it. For example, the dangerous assertion, that within the Church no disease can be transmitted, is often propagated, a view that has been heard in the sermons of hierarchs and other official clergy (fortunately few), with the groundless theological argument that within the Church all things are sanctified: the dust on which we walk on the ground, marble, stones, wood, colors, etc. . Certainly, such views can be further identified with idolatry, and these were condemned by the 7e Ecumenical Council. Beyond that, however, the people who support and promote such unorthodox theories shape the view and position of God’s people, causing a lack of trust in local shepherds, and even in the official voice of the ‘Church.
This new coronavirus has given rise to, among other things, a latent “subjective disease”, that of the multiplicity of language within the Church, something which refers to this old “virus” of Babel. A quick Internet study will convince you of this personal statement. In addition, a study of the personal social networks of our clergy or of the sermons heard by some of our priests in the Churches will persuade you of this multiplicity of languages, which really confuses, disappoints and above all does not help our people. . With these elements in mind, I focus your attention on the following points:
- As a clergy, you are obliged to remember your distinctive attribute as a priest. Regarding the social media posts of our clergy, I will come back to this topic soon with a new encyclical, as correspondence often arrives at my parishioners office relating to certain members of the clergy with photographed material and texts, which do not express priestly ethics and ecclesial mentality. However, in relation to the coronavirus and the pandemic, know that whatever you post, people see it as the voice of a clergyman and, more broadly, the voice of the Church that he represents. So keep in mind that your distinctive attribute as a member of the clergy does not allow you to function as an individual. As you know, even when a clergyman departs from the active governance of the Church, he is not defrocked, does not cease to celebrate the holy sacraments, does not cease to participate in the meetings of the clergy of the local Church. . Therefore, in every situation you have to function and act as members of the body which is called the Church. Not as individual members, not as autonomous ecclesial entities and voices, not as if you had no leader, no bishop or no shepherd, but as members of the Priestly Family of the Holy Archdiocese from Australia. If someone does not wish to be part of this family, he has the right to leave; however, he has no right to follow his own path, and indeed one that is anti-ecclesial and unorthodox.
- As far as vaccination and all vaccinations are concerned, this is first and foremost a medical and scientific question. It is more holy and more spiritual for us, the clergy, who do not have the requisite knowledge, to ask and to listen. When we have concerns and hesitations about some public or critical issue, we communicate with our Shepherd and offer our thoughts to him. Following this, the Pastor has the responsibility to convey the concerns of the clergy and laity of his eparchy to the Synod, and the Synod, in turn, will decide, insofar as the Orthodox Church expresses itself in a synodic way. When, for certain questions, even medical ones, there are ethical and spiritual dilemmas, then we underline and delimit them; and then we submit our thoughts with ecclesial decency to those charged with making changes or finding solutions. For example, together with the Catholic and Anglican Archbishops of Sydney, we sent a letter of protest to the Prime Minister of our country, Mr. Scott Morrison, regarding the provision of certain vaccines, the production of which is based on cell linings of embryos aborted. This, however, does not mean that all vaccines are ethically unacceptable. Specifically for the coronavirus pandemic, there are around 30 vaccines in circulation. Some of them are not produced with the cell coatings of dead embryos. Therefore, there is no spiritual, ecclesial or canonical issue for a person to be vaccinated with any of these vaccines. The international scientific community tells us that vaccination is the only solution to face the pandemic. So we are listening to the specialists. We urge our people to be vaccinated, without coercing anyone, respecting the freedom of each person. However, the spirit of the Church is not anti-scientific, anti-medical, or anti-vaccination in relation to vaccinations that do not come from embryos. You have already vaccinated your children from an early age, precisely because the spirit of the Church is not anti-vaccination, not in opposition to science.
- We are facing enormous difficulties these days, because already in the State of Victoria it has been announced that entry into our Churches will not be allowed to faithful members of the Church who have not been vaccinated. As for the other states, there have been no similar announcements, beyond what is being said in the mainstream media. Certainly, it is an inalienable right of every person to worship God in the Church, a right which is even more applicable for us, Orthodox Christians, who believe in the Holy Gospel, which places a strong emphasis on freedom and ‘equality. Personally, I will never agree with a measure that divides the faithful between vaccinated and unvaccinated. The doors of our Churches will be open to all. I do not accept that there are people who wish to come to church and we will not allow them. On this most sensitive issue, I have already started, since ten days ago, talks with our leaders and certain religious leaders in our country. In addition, there is a team of doctors, who are currently preparing a scientific and well-documented plan, with precise guidelines, so that the entry of those who are not vaccinated can be allowed into our Churches. As the Archdiocese of Australia, we will submit this plan to the respective states and seek their understanding, or rather we will claim the human right of every person to be able to attend Church. However, my experience so far has taught me that we are capable of solving difficult and important problems with understanding, dialogue and by presenting alternative proposals. Writing protest letters without first speaking with the ministers concerned, or uttering threats and making noise, without first submitting proposals with an alternative solution, leads to division and naturally to undesirable results. That is why, once again, I urge you not to judge, to make public statements, to censor and to take a stand, at least on basic issues, without asking your leader, who is the Holy Archdiocese of Australia and your Titular Archbishop. I remind you that, if to this day, beyond the many difficulties, we have succeeded in dealing with the question of Holy Communion with calm and serenity, it is not thanks to the alleged heroism and bullying of certain members of the clergy, who thought that with their personal pages on the Internet, they could become confessors. Rather, it is through dialogue and loving relationships that I try to maintain with our leaders, a relationship that builds trust between Church and State.
With these thoughts and calls, I greet you all, my beloved priests “with a holy kiss” and I hope that you cultivate every day in yourselves a ministry pleasing to God “a spirit of wisdom, a spirit of understanding” , so that you may all work united with the body of our holy archdiocese, for the glory of Christ and the salvation of the people.
In Sydney, the 19e September 2021
Makarios from Australia
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia