Does the Serbian Church protect public health from COVID-19?

31 March, 2020

On March 29, 2020, the anti-liberal online edition “Alt-Info” published an article headlined “ Serbian Patriarchate: The Church will not cease Divine Liturgy and communion”. The article concerns the decision issued by Serbian Church on March 28, by which the church changed the details of communion to prevent coronavirus-related threats. The article published by Alt-Info states that parishes of the Serbian Church will still receive communion and this issue is undebatable.


The article published by Alt-Info is manipulative, since it does not provide complete information on whether the parishes are still allowed to go to the church. In addition, the headline of the article and the accompanying photo showing parishes mislead readers, since new rules require the parishes to stay home and follow liturgy distantly.

Serbian Ortodox Church issued its decision on March 28. The Communique states that due to the threats related to Covid-19 virus, religious services in churches and in the open air will not be attended by the faithful. The decision held that the recommendations are already being followed by the Serbian diaspora in various countries, and the main purpose of all this is public health protection. 
As the Serbian Church explains, taking into account the importance of Divine Liturgy for Christians, the process will still take place in churches and will be attended by a priest, deacon, chanter and altar server.  

The Church urges parishes to follow religious services through various online means (television, church web-page). In addition, they will have an opportunity to receive communion at home in case of visit by a clergyman. The church urges parishes to postpone other important processes (for example, Holy Baptism), while funerals must be organized with as few amount of people as possible.  

  • Coronavirus and church bans in the Orthodox world

It should be noted that various measures were taken in the Orthodox Churches to respond to coronavirus. In the view of recent developments that dramatically increased the number of people infected with coronavirus in Russia, Russia’s Patriarch Kirill urged parishes to stay home and not to attend church. 
Due to the threat of coronavirus, all worship services were suspended in Greece.  The decision was made by the state and the church on March 16. On March 23, Greek police arrested the Metropolitan for the violation of the rules. Similar processes have taken place in Montenegro.  
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has also urged its parishes to stay home, after a state of emergency was declared in Bulgaria. Despite the call and the decision, cathedrals remained open, however the parishes were required to keep the distance. The Romanian Church allowed religious services held in the open air, where no more than 100 people will participate and the distance between them will be at least one meter.

Divine services have also moved online in Albania. The Patriarch Anastasios also urged parishes to stay home to avert the threat of the spread of coronavirus. Currently, transmission of religious services in Albania is possible online and through radio stations. 
Only Polish and Georgian Orthodox Churches did not apply such a strict limitations. By the decision of Polish Church, the attention was drawn only to the standards of hygiene. In the decision of March 17, it was noted that “the Holy Eucharist is the Holy Fire that destroys all evil”. The church urged clergyman to have disinfectants in the cathedrals. 
In case of Georgian Church, the restrictions refer only to the distance between the church attendants. Georgian Orthodox Church, like other churches, did not take strict measures to combat the coronavirus. 

Prepared by Irakli Iagorashvili
Regional Network of the Media Literacy Lab