Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden issued an encyclical regarding the Celebration of Holy Week Services in the wake of the Covid-19 strict measures:
Dearly Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ and Reverend Clergy, Members and Benefactors of the Holy Metropolis of Sweden and All Scandinavia,
I am informing you that due to the rapid spread of Covid-19 cases and in order to limit the transmission of this contagious disease, following respectfully the instructions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and all other holy services throughout the duration of Holy Week will be held in our churches “behind closed doors.” This means that the only persons physically present will be the parish priest, one chanter on the right chanter’s stand, one chanter on the left chanter’s stand, and the sexton/assistant.
The church services will be streamed live exclusively through the Metropolis’ social media accounts, from the St. George Cathedral of Stockholm. Metropolisofsweden @ metropolisofsweden1
Due to the present spike in cases of this virus, especially in Sweden, these measures will remain in place for the duration of the month of April for all the parishes under the canonical jurisdiction of our Holy Metropolis.
Our local Church fully conforms to the decisions of the responsible state agencies regarding the implementation of necessary measures to protect the public health.
With the exception of the holy services for April that will take place “behind closed doors,” Holy Sacraments and all scheduled events and celebrations are postponed until the end of April. The only exception will be funerals, which will be conducted with the immediate family of the deceased in attendance only. If the cause of death is Covid-19, then the funeral will be conducted at the chapel of the cemetery that the family has chosen, and not at the parish.
There will be no services celebrated throughout the month of April at the Parishes of St. Andrew in Malmö, Sweden and St. George the New Martyr of Ioannina in Roskilde, Denmark because the parish priest resides in Stockholm and his travel to the aforementioned cities via airplane or other means would jeopardize his health and the health of his family. Moreover, due to the strict lockdown measures in place in Denmark, if he travels there he will be quarantined, meaning that he would not be able to celebrate Holy Services.
Holy services in the Sts. Constantine and Helen Parish in Jönköping, Sweden will be celebrated depending on the availability of the parish priest, who also serves as a doctor and must be present at the hospital where he works due to the increased influx of patients.
The same holds true for the Parishes of St. Cleopas in Kalmar, the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple in Borås, and the Transfiguration of Christ in Överkalix, Sweden.
All of the aforementioned measures will be reassessed in the coming weeks, depending on the developments related to the coronavirus pandemic. You will be apprised in a timely manner.
During this trying time, let us turn our thoughts prayerfully to our clergy and laity in Scandinavia, the sick, those who have fallen asleep – victims of the virus especially –, our fellow citizens who are living in isolation or have been abandoned, the people who have lost their jobs, and most definitely the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who are fighting to save lives, all those who lost their loved ones, and the researchers working in laboratories to discover medications to treat and cure this virus.
My brethren, our journey that takes us to both the Crucifixion and the Resurrection will last another ten days. Life goes on, our vision remains, hope prevails, and the good news of the Gospel will be experienced as a joyous message from God. Life goes on, because Life has dawned from the tomb; because Christ Himself is the Life and the Resurrection and give meaning to the past, the present, and the future of the world.
Since Christ came “when the doors were shut” and stood in the midst of the Apostles, we will remain patient and “stay at home,” however, we will still be present at the holy services in mind and spirit, through our prayers, entreating the Lord on behalf of ourselves and others. And so, we will not be alone. We will remain in communion through our thoughts, hearts, and prayers, since “prayer” is the safest and surest channel of communication.
With the confidence and assuredness that we will handle this pandemic spiritually and revive the ancient concept of the “kat’ oikon ekklesia” (domestic church) with maturity, mindfulness, faith, and prayer, I remain,
With deep paternal love and heartfelt wishes for a Blessed Pascha,
+ Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden