ATHENS, Greece — The powerful Church of Greece said Tuesday it would allow the faithful to take part in Orthodox Easter services next week but limit attendance and hold the services earlier in the day to conform with a government-imposed curfew.
The decision comes despite Greece reporting a high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and as the country’s hospitals are struggling to treat unprecedented numbers of intubated patients. Orthodox Easter services were canceled last year, when Greece had much fewer confirmed cases.
The center-right government is under pressure to lift travel restrictions ahead of the Easter holidays, while thousands of people in Athens have flouted infection-control restrictions by holding all-night open-air parties in city squares amid warm, spring weather.
The Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, said after a virtual meeting Tuesday that worshippers “must by no means be deprived of participation in the joy of the Resurrection,” normally celebrated with a midnight service late on Holy Saturday.
This year, services will start in church courtyards at 9 p.m. on May 1, followed by a liturgy indoors. The timing would allow worshippers to be home in time for the 10 p.m. curfew.
Orthodox Easter is the most popular date on Greece’s religious calendar. Large crowds flock to Holy Week services, join in candle-lit mourning processions on Good Friday, and often rowdy Resurrection celebrations accompany church services at midnight on Holy Saturday.