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March 17, 2020

Saint Patrick of Ireland

Lord, I am calling to you, hear me, O Lord.” (Psalm 140)

Dearly Beloved, Clergy, Faithful and Monastics:

These words cried out by King Saint David, the writer of the Psalms, are the words on our lips today as we reflect on the terrible pandemic which overshadows the entire world and our own Nation.  We must do more than reflect on the situation; we are called on by government and medical advisors to act in defense of our families and neighbors by temporarily restricting gathering together.

It is necessary for Orthodox Christians to consider what we are called to do. We must continue to be even more concerned for our neighbor, for others. From various official sources, we are called on to refrain from gathering in groups. Some sources indicate the maximum number of a gathering at “100”; others say “50”; and others “10.” The problem is that no one can state with assurance any particular number. No one knows, because it takes just one to be a carrier of the virus.  Is it “I?” Is it “you?” The “who” is unknown and at this time, unknowable. That is why there is no “safe” number of individuals, for each comes together from various parts of a city, from various work and service environments, bringing with them possible contamination.

We posed the question to a medical physician in the Episcopate: “Should the churches be closed entirely?” The response was a resounding, “Yes!” Considering the insecurity of guessing who might be infected with the virus, we are terminating all gatherings in the parishes; liturgical, administrative and social at least until March 31 when we will review the status of the pandemic as determined by medical and government sources…