Romanian churches warn faithful not to kiss icons

After the first confirmed coronavirus case was discovered in Romania on Thursday, the country’s two largest churches, the Romanian Orthodox and the Catholic, have both issued recommendations for preventative measures to the faithful, such as not to kiss the icons on display in Orthodox churches.

Kissing the icons is a long-standing tradition of Orthodox churchgoers, and the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchy – while assuring the faithful that the icons are regularly disinfected – advises its members to refrain from doing so. It also said that those taking Communion will be allowed to use their own spoons, instead of the thoroughly disinfected ones in churches.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bucharest also issued its own set of recommendations: People should temporarily refrain from dipping their fingers in the holy water before making the sign of the cross and from shaking hands with others attending services; old and frail people should for the time being also not attend services but watch them on television instead.

Both churches ensure the faithful that these measures are temporary concessions to prevent the spread of the virus and are fully in line with church doctrine.

In turn, Nelu Tătaru, state minister at the Health Ministry advised people not to kiss women on the two upcoming dates of March 1 and March 8. March 1 is the day when Romanian men offer small pendants to women, the so-called mărțișor, customarily accompanied with a kiss, while March 8 is the International Women’s Day observed worldwide.
Also on Thursday, acting Health Minister Victor Costache attempted to combat the “abundant” rumors about the coronavirus, pointing out that in 82 to 85 percent of the cases, the infection results in mild respiratory symptoms.
In other related news, the Romanian Social-Democrat Party (PSD) has postponed its weekend congress because of the outbreak.
Title image: Silver and gilded icons at the Iași Romanian Orthodox Cathedral.

Author: Dénes Albert