As this Coronavirus crisis continues to spread and intensify on a global scale, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is monitoring the situation with an urgent sense of responsibility towards its faithful and all people without exception, and, following the Communiqué of 11 March 2020, upon deliberation of its Hierarchs in the City, announces the following:
1) The Ecumenical Patriarchate emphatically reiterates its appeal to everyone to limit their outings and travels to what is necessary, remaining in their homes for their own safety and the protection of the general public.
2) It commends the spirit of self-sacrifice demonstrated by those working in the field of healthcare and expresses its gratitude for their extraordinary and exhaustive efforts to assist those in need, as well as for the danger they knowingly risk by coming in contact with those infected by Covid-19.
3) It underlines the need for everyone to follow the decisions and instructions of the responsible health authorities for the sake of the common good.
4) In light of decisions already taken by some eparchies of the Ecumenical Throne, today we universally declare our ecclesiastical resolution and mandate to cease all divine services, events, and rites, with the exception of private prayer in churches that will remain open, until the end of March. This restriction will be later reassessed, in accordance with the development of the pandemic caused by the virus.
5) All Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monasteries will continue to hold regular divine services for their monastic communities, but outside pilgrims and visitors will not be permitted entry.
6) In the same framework, the Patriarchal Offices at the Phanar will remain closed until further notice, while the Ecumenical Patriarch and clergy of the Patriarchal Court will perform the prescribed divine services and pray for the whole world and for its speedy relief from this trial.
From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod
Phanar, 18 March 2020
Following this direction of our Mother Church, all services in the Church of the Ascension have been cancelled, with immediate effect.
A message from Father Kosmas
This decision to cease all divine services does not mean that we must stop worshipping and praying as a Community. Indeed, the spread of Coronavirus presents us with a call to unite ourselves more closely to one another in prayer and in love, even if we cannot be physically close to one another.
So that we can continue our common life of prayer and worship, I plan each week to make available the Order for Reader’s Typika (Обедница) for the coming Sunday, so that all who wish to do so can pray the service together. In this way, we can be united with one another in prayer and worship, even if we are not physically together in church.
I suggest that, if possible, all of us begin the service at around 10.30 am on Sunday morning, so that we can say or sing the prayers at around the same time. But if it is better to pray at a different time, we will still be united in faith and in love: God is not bound by time. If we can, we should stand in front of our icons, and light a lamp (or candle), and incense, if we have it. We should be reverent, and as far as possible behave as if we were in church – e.g. by standing for the reading of the Gospel. In these circumstances, it is perfectly appropriate for the Gospel to be read by someone who is not a priest or deacon.
If we are praying with our families or with other members of our household, we may need to be cautious about the spread of the virus, and to take appropriate precautions, especially if anyone appears to be unwell.
We will also try to make sure that the church is open for private prayer at some times each week. By direction of our Archbishop, only the narthex will be open, but people will still be able to light candles and to pray. Those who wish to take Holy Water from the church for use at home will be able to do so. Times when the church will be open for public prayer will be posted on the website.
It is possible that the Divine Liturgy may still be served publicly in churches of other Orthodox jurisdictions. If so, some of us may wish to attend the Divine Liturgy there, until it is possible for services to be resumed in Rugby. This is a matter for your own judgement and common sense; there is nothing to prevent you from going to another Orthodox church (provided that it is genuinely an Orthodox church) if you wish to do so. If you are in any doubt, please do not hesitate to contact me.
If anyone wishes me to visit them at home (especially if they are unwell) to bring them the Holy Gifts, or to anoint them with Holy Oil, I will do my best to arrange this. However, my long-term health condition means that I am on the Government list of those who are at increased risk of severe illness from Coronavirus, so if I am able to visit you because you are ill, we will need to make careful preparations to ensure that both of us remain as safe as possible.
I hope and pray that all of us will be given strength during these troubling times: may God help us to lift up our hands which hang down, and strengthen our faltering steps. Remember that the Mother of God and all the Saints go with us as we follow in the way of Christ’s Cross, so that we might come to know the joy of His glorious Resurrection.
Through the intercession of the Mother of God and of all the Saints, may God bring courage to the fearful, healing to all who are afflicted, eternal rest to those who have died, and comfort to all those who mourn. We ask Christ, the Physician of our souls and bodies, to heal our fallen world, and all of us.
Please pray for me, as I do for all of you