An important message of Bishop Macarie Dragoi towards the priests from the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Northern Europe during the coronavirus pandemic: “Under no circumstances will the serving of the Divine Liturgy end! Nothing and nobody should deter us from this service. Under no circumstances can we bar the gates of the Church or the gates of our soul to our suffering brothers”

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My beloved spiritual children, brothers and fellow servants of the Church,

In the current environment of panic, fear and confusion, the Church has to remain a safe spiritual and social harbour for each of its members. My beloved spiritual brothers and sons, please do not forget that this is our mission: to serve the members of our eucharistic communities. We are here to give thanks to God, to bring the bloodless Sacrifice on the eucharistic altar, and to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of our brothers in Christ. Nothing and nobody should deter us from this service. Under no circumstances can we bar the gates of the Church or the gates of our soul to our suffering brothers. Especially now, our small flock needs compassion and advice and to be strengthened through prayer and service, but it will be easier for us to go through this trial if we have the awareness of participating, together, to the same life in Christ with its liturgical rhythm, nourished by the Holy Mysteries and enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Now, more than ever, we need the Church, both us who are servants of the holy altars and the community of the faithful. We are especially glad that our communities have found volunteers willing to participate in the solidarity and support activities which the Church can organise together with local communities for those who are isolated or quarantined or those who are especially vulnerable.

The objective conditions consisting of various rules and restrictions imposed by the state authorities regarding public gatherings and social distancing will lead to an adaptation of our service to the new conditions. If a total interdiction of public gatherings is enforced, which the states in our Diocese have not yet done, then the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated wherever the priest is able to serve according to the existing conditions. If it cannot be celebrated in a traditional place of worship, it is recommended that the priest confronted with this situation, after consulting the bishop on this matter, goes to the nearest parish or neutral location where the Liturgy can be celebrated. If this option is also not available the priest will serve the Divine Liturgy in his own home, with his family, as happened last Sunday in Odense and the Feroe islands. In these temporary conditions, all the members of the community who will not be physically present will partake of the cosmic fruit of the Divine Sacrifice. Under no circumstance will we stop serving the Divine Liturgy on Sundays (as well as during the week, when it is possible to serve the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts)!

Regarding the members of our parish communities who will want to have their confessions, they will be received in order, and according to a pre-existing schedule, in order to avoid agglomeration. In the unlikely case of a complete restriction of our freedom of movement, priests ought to make themselves available through digital mediums to the faithful in need of advice and guidance. As soon as legal conditions will allow it, they should resume meeting face to face in order to hear their confessions and offer advice.

The Church is the Body of Christ, so it is a living organism, which over time has survived persecutions and periods of interdictions, as well as epidemics, wars, cataclysms, falls of empires and civilisations. Even if the gates of hell will strike it, the Church will not fall! Have faith! Have hope! States and societies can collapse but the Church will remain alive! It will live through us, its members! So in this peaceful harbour, let us remain firm in our faith until this trial will pass.

As I have recently urged you in my pastoral message, let us place all our hope in the care and protection of the Most Merciful God, the Lord of life and death, Whom we supplicate for our health and salvation and for the salvation of the world, having as intercessors both the Mother of God and the healing and protecting saints which are known to us. Given that we are in the middle of the Great Lent, our prayers ought to be accompanied by fasting and I ask you, as spiritual fathers to set each of your parishioners a cannon of prayer and fasting according to the measure of each.

Your father, brother and friend in Christ,

as well as fervently praying fellow servant,

+Bishop Macarie

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