Across Europe, churches struggle with government policies


European Union


An empty bench as a placeholder during a church service with believers present at the Catholic church St Ursula in Munich, Bavaria. Photo EPA, Lukas Barth-Tuttas

An archbishop of the Greek-Orthodox Church lashed out at Greek authorities for their Covid policies. He is not the only one among the clergy that is annoyed by the constantly changing regulations for churches.

“We will no longer tolerate the lies of the authorities”, said Jeronim Karma, Archbishop of the Greek-Orthodox Church of Calavrita and Aigialea in a sermon. This was reported on Wednesday by the Christian Lithuanian news portal Laikmetis. Disagreeing in the sermon with the need to test the faithful at the temple door, Metropolitan Karma stated that “those who rule us must understand that this is the Greece of the saints.”

He recalled that "until recently they said one thing and came to say another yesterday." “We can no longer live with this suffering, with this mockery, with this lie. Let those who rule our country understand that Greece means orthodoxy, and the Greeks are always united with Jesus Christ."

Although the Holy Synod of the Greek-Orthodox Church said on Monday that it respects the decisions of the State regarding Covid measures, churches do have a hard time dealing with the everchanging restrictions. And not only in Greece. It is happening across Europe.


For example, in the Netherlands, several churches wrote a letter to the Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, in which they oppose the so-called 2G. That means that people who attend church services can only enter a church with a proof of vaccination or proof of recovery from Covid. At first, the idea of working with a corona passport was taboo in the Netherlands. In an interview with Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad in June, De Jonge said that there would be no semi-compulsory vaccination. However, due to the rise of the Delta variant, earlier dismissed ideas like 2G came up again. "Your 'progressive insight' undermines confidence in you as a minister, but also in government in general”, wrote the churches to De Jonge.

The Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, Antje Jackelén, said something similar earlier this month. When the Swedish government announced the introduction of required vaccination certificates for gatherings of more than 100 people at indoor events including church visits, Jackelén said that “religious communities are no longer prepared to take the consequences of the inconsistent rules that have applied during the pandemic."

Some people even feel misled. At least, that is how Philippe Thueler, secretary-general of the French-speaking Federation of Evangelical Churches in Switzerland, sees the situation. "In May, we got the guarantee that there would be no health certificates in the church", he says. Yet, since September 13th, all Swiss churchgoers have to have a pass.

Less certain

Governments obviously do not know how the coronavirus will develop either. Still, Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has learned something in regard to making promises: “After twenty months of experience with the virus, I may need to be less certain about how the pandemic will play out in the future”, he told Dutch daily Nederlands Dagblad.



Subscribe for an update, and receive a documentary and e-book for free.

Choose your subscriptions*

You may subscribe to multiple lists.