Georgian Orthodox Clergymen to Hold Easter Vigil Despite Coronavirus Pandemic, Curfew

Parishioners of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) will be allowed to attend Easter Vigil held on Easter Eve, April 18, provided that they do not leave church premises until the end of nighttime curfew at 6 am. The decision comes after a meeting between government’s and GOC’s representatives that took place two days ago.

“[The Church] was given necessary and sufficient assurances, that, given current grave circumstances, churches will not be shut down for parishioners and they can celebrate the holiday in a traditional manner,” Andria Jagmaidze, GOC’s spokesperson has told journalists at a briefing today.

While holding Easter Vigil, the Church will take into consideration all recommendations of social (physical) distancing issued by the government and health officials, Jagmaidze noted.

“We agreed that parishioners will come to churches before the start of the service, and leave church premises at 6 am.” This is a good deal given the tough situation, Jagmaidze stated, calling on people who are at higher risk of catching the virus to comply with public health recommendations.

According to Jagmaidze, parishioners attending the Vigil in large churches (cathedrals) will keep the two-meter distance, while those in smaller, less spacious churches will remain in churchyards also observing physical distancing measures. Some clergymen, if possible, will hold Easter Vigil in the morning as well in a bid to avoid flux of worshipers during the evening service, Jagmaidze said.

GOC’s spokesperson advised parishioners against sharing large Easter feasts in order to avert mass gathering of people. He also touched upon visiting cemeteries during Easter holidays, noting that it was not required by the Canon law of the Church.

Irakli Chikovani, government’s spokesperson, has held a press briefing on the same topic today. Chikovani noted, that police officers will be stationed near church surroundings on Easter Eve to enforce curfew and physical distancing measures.

“We are imploring our citizens to bear in mind that [Georgia] is under the state of emergency,” Chikovani stated, adding that during the curfew, from 21:00 to 06:00, citizens are obliged to stay in their houses.

Prime Minister’s spokesperson stressed that anyone violating curfew will face a GEL 3000 fine, while repeat offenders will incur criminal liability.

Chikovani stated that, starting from April 17, public cemeteries situated in cities will be shut down effective until April 27.

Earlier, on April 3, Maia Tskitishvili, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure, stated that mass gathering of more than three people in churches or “in any other space”, and “movement of citizens” [outside their houses] from 9 pm to 6 am” would violate curfew restrictions.

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