Orthodox Easter may set back Romania’s coronavirus fight

While Transylvanians belonging to the Reformed, Catholic, Lutheran and Unitarian denominations celebrated their Easter last week in their homes, following the strict safety regulations adopted to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Romanian Orthodox majority can enjoy their Easter with relaxed restrictions as a result of an agreement between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Romanian Orthodox Church. Home Affairs Minister Marcel Vela announced on Thursday evening that the authorities have allowed for the distribution of the Holy Light on Easter night and the blessed bread (Paste) on Friday and Saturday.

“In order to provide spiritual relief to all those who are going through hard times, we will help the Orthodox Church in the distribution of the Holy Light on Easter Night,” the minister said.

Vela also announced that the Paste, blessed on Good Thursday, will be distributed on Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18, from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in specially arranged places in all parishes, following the rule of social distancing. Vela asked those going to pick up their bread to make sure to include the parish as the location in their written statement (giving the reason for leaving their home).

According to the agreement, the Holy Light coming from Jerusalem will be distributed to believers on Saturday night, after 8 p.m., by volunteers and the police. People will be allowed to go out on the street in front of their house, taking care not to form groups larger than three people, Vela stated. The Holy Light will be distributed in hospitals, social centers and quarantine centers as well, he added.

Fortunately, the authorities have not allowed for church services to take place on Easter night, but some public figures and popular priests have urged Romanians to ignore the ban and go to church anyway.

The signatures of the Romanian Patriarch and Minister of Interior on the agreement

RMDSZ: This agreement is irresponsible and discriminative

The results of the precautionary measures taken so far against the spread of the coronavirus epidemic are being jeopardized by the agreement between the Ministry of the Interior and the Orthodox Church, the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (known by its Hungarian acronym of RMDSZ) believes.

“The Interior Minister is erasing everything that we as a society have achieved together thanks to the restrictive measures,” the RMDSZ stated in a press release. According to the alliance, Vela is ignoring the state of emergency ordered by President Klaus Iohannis (the state of emergency was extended by the President for another 30 days last Thursday) and the public health measures of his own government and is thus endangering the country.

“Relaxing the curfew restriction is extremely dangerous for the public health and is projected to lead to a drastic jump in the number of infections and deaths. In addition, the agreement between Marcel Vela and the Orthodox Church would delay the country’s efforts to recover from the economic crisis by months,” the press release said.

The alliance also believes that the measure is discriminatory against Catholic and Protestant people living in the country.

“This is particularly harmfull now when social solidarity and mutual responsibility should be paramount,” the RMDSZ said. It also has called on the prime minister to withdraw the agreement.

Title image: The Patriarch Daniel, head of the Romanian Orthodox Church. (source: libertatea.ro)

Author: Orsi Sarány