In a letter sent to the heads of the various Greek Orthodox Metropolises of the United States, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America has notified the Metropolitans that an earlier suspension of services directive has been reversed and that the Patriarchate will now allow liturgies to continue– but only in closed churches.
Earlier in the day, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople issued a directive suspending all services and liturgies throughout the world.
Elpidophoros told that Metropolitans that the decision to allow parishes to continue services came after he discussed the matter directly with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
“Having discussed the situation with the Sacred Center of Orthodoxy, at length, and having inquired specifically about the United States, I received His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s reply, namely, that we should allow for the divine services, including Divine Liturgies, to be celebrated in our Holy Churches behind closed doors,” Elpidophoros wrote.
“In this way we may be able to keep our liturgical tradition alive, even in this minimal way,” he told the Metropolitans in his letter.
The latest clarification of the earlier suspension by Bartholomew comes after weeks of confusion about the policies that would be taken in Churches throughout the United States with each Metropolitan issuing his own statement to his faithful with some closing parishes all together and others remaining open.
The matter escalated into an attempted show of power by Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey who rebuked an earlier communique by the Archdiocese that ordered churches across the United States to close.
Evangelos sent a strongly worded letter to his parish priests ordering them to adhere only to his directives and not orders from the Archdiocese, calling the communication from the Archbishop’s office “uncanonical.”
A source at the Patriarchate of Constantinople that asked to remain anonymous told The Pappas Post that Evangelos received “a strong rebuke” from Bartholomew, who reminded him that Archbishop Elpidophoros was the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the United States, as well as the President of the Synod of bishops of the Archdiocese.
Archbishop Elpidophoros full letter to the Metropolitans of the United States follows in its entirety:
Letter from Archbishop Elpidophoros Conveying Liturgical Guidelines of the Ecumenical Patriarchate During the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic
It is with brotherly joy but also with much agony that I communicate with Your Eminence in these critical and unsettling times, when all of humanity is in turmoil over this this sudden pandemic of COVID-19. As Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I am informing you of the just-issued decision of the Holy and Sacred Synod concerning the pastoral measures which must be taken for the protection of the flock of the Mother Church throughout the world.
Having discussed the situation with the Sacred Center of Orthodoxy, at length, and having inquired specifically about the United States, I received His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s reply, namely, that we should allow for the divine services, including Divine Liturgies, to be celebrated in our Holy Churches behind closed doors, as is the case with the Monasteries. In this way we may be able to keep our liturgical tradition alive, even in this minimal way, but also that we may broadcast through streaming and other means the aforementioned services for the spiritual benefit of our faithful.
Having duly conveyed the above to Your Eminence, I pray for continued strength and resolve as we face this unprecedented and disconcerting situation.
With undiminished love in the Lord, and esteem,
New York, March 18, 2020
+Archbishop Elpidophoros of America