Coronavirus News Asia

Orthodox Easter services hit by virus


More than 260 million Orthodox Christians celebrated Easter Sunday, with church leaders urging worshippers to stay at home to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus.

While many watched services online or on television, some sidestepped virus fears to attend churches on the most important date in the Orthodox calendar.

In Georgia, several hundred took part in a midnight mass at Tbilisi’s Holy Trinity Cathedral after the government allowed public attendance despite a nightly curfew aimed at curbing the virus.

“I could have stayed at home and watched the service on television but only here in this holy church can I find true comfort,” one worshipper, 58-year-old Lamara Zhvania told AFP.

Orthodox Christians, the world’s third largest group of Christian believers, this year celebrate Easter a week after Catholics and Protestants because they follow a different calendar.

Last week’s Easter celebrations took place in empty churches while Pope Francis live-streamed his traditional message from the Vatican as the pandemic that has killed more than 150,000 made mass worship too risky.

‘We are together’

Russian Patriarch Kirill, who leads 150 million believers, held a service in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Church with no worshippers attending.

In a televised address, the Patriarch focused on “the terrible illness that has touched our people” saying the church was empty but “we are together — one big family of Orthodox believers”.


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