ATHENS, Greece (ChurchMilitant.com) - Eastern Orthodox bishops are bitterly divided over granting medical freedom to members of their churches who are refusing the abortion-tainted COVID-19 vaccine.
Archbishop Elpidophoros and the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) issued a strongly worded communiqué Thursday prohibiting priests from issuing religious exemption letters "for any reason" to support conscientious objectors to the vaccine.
"Although some may be exempt from the vaccination for clear medical reasons, there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for Her faithful from any vaccination for religious reasons, including the coronavirus vaccine," Elpidophoros categorically declared.
"For this reason, letters of exemption for the vaccination against the coronavirus for religious purposes issued by priests of the Archdiocese of America have no validity," the statement stressed.
Despite the contested nature of the debate in peer-reviewed medical journals and eminent scientists warning against mass vaccination, Elpidophoros warned the faithful "to avoid the false narratives utterly unfounded in science and perpetrated on the Church."
While several Orthodox prelates and priests have rejected the jab for reasons of morality and safety, the archbishop belittled conscientious objectors as "those who have succumbed to the disinformation and conspiracy theories that are widely available on social media sites."
Metropolitan Bishop Siluan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Australia and New Zealand has written a fiery open letter slamming coercive vaccine mandates and demanding freedom of choice for conscientious objectors to the experimental vaccine.
"People have a legitimate right to be concerned and to ask questions regarding these particular vaccines, as they are still dubbed to be in their clinical trial phase, as recently stated by the Australian Minister for Health," Bp. Siluan stated.
The outspoken prelate elaborated [emphasis in the original letter]:
No blackmail or coercion, including that of vaccination, is morally acceptable. Without freedom of choice, there is no humanity. Orthodox Christianity professes that the human person is created in the image and likeness of God and that the central quality or attribute of this Image is the gift of free will, the ability to make an informed and free choice.
"Christ leaves us with a choice, does not cancel out human freedom to choose, does not impose salvation," Siluan explained, noting that God's gift of choice "should not be equivocated to an anti-vax position, but rather one of informed consent, also considering any ethical concerns that those of faith might have."
The bishop also emphasized the moral issue faced by Orthodox Christians of "accepting vaccines that have been developed from cell lines that were obtained from tissues harvested from aborted fetuses."
Siluan concluded [emphasis in the original letter]:
Therefore, the moral concerns of Christians should be taken into consideration, as they are not simply subjective views, but derive from the fundamental positions and core beliefs of the Church. That is why our faithful may appeal to this, our archpastoral letter and other statements of the Orthodox Church, as to why they are unable to receive these particular vaccines.
A more direct warning for government officials came from Moldova, just south of Ukraine.
In May, Metropolitan Vladimir and seven bishops of the Orthodox Church in Moldova — the largest faith group in the country — wrote to the nation's president, prime minister and parliament, citing the Moldovan constitution and attacking any form of compulsory vaccine mandates in law.
The prelates warned of the "danger of introducing microchipping or other foreign devices into the human body" through vaccination and noted that public opinion in Europe "considers them a way in which the globalist antichrist system wants to introduce into people's bodies microchips with which to control them through technology."
The Moldovan Metropolitan Church, canonically subordinated to the Russian Orthodox Church, demanded "any medical intervention to be performed on a voluntary basis, only with the consent and correct information of the patient (including transparency of vaccine composition and possible adverse effects)."
The Church also warned Prime Minister Ion Chicu that if he did not lift restrictions on public worship, he would be struck off the prayer list: "Otherwise we will take the canonical and moral right to exclude you from remembrance in the Church's prayers. Do not fight against the Church, for it is Christ who defends it."
In August, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a close associate of Pope Francis and a fellow climate change alarmist, condemned vaccine hesitancy as "irrational and unjustified by theological or scientific criteria."
"Anything that contradicts the commandment to love one's neighbor cannot be the will of God," Bartholomew observed, perpetuating the myth that vaccines halt the transmission of the China virus.
The ecumenical patriarch blasted clerics dissenting from the mainstream narrative:
We are confronted with interpretations, teachings and proclamations by certain clergy and laity who have not faced this crisis with sobriety, wisdom and knowledge. It's with great sadness that we see the crisis being exploited for demagogic populism, conspiracy theories, religious and metaphysical tendencies, creating great problems for the flock.
In Greece, Metropolitan Ignatius Georgakopoulos of Demetrias said he was against "any external authority imposing vaccinations," but believed that "the right to refuse the vaccine stops when everyone else's right to health and life begins."
However, Metropolitan Cosmas Papachristos of Aitolia and Metropolitan Seraphim Stergioulas of Kythira have protested COVID-19 tyranny including church closures, face coverings and forced vaccinations.
Seraphim has condemned the vaccines as "a product of abortions."
Teodosie Petrescu, archbishop of Tomis for the Romanian Orthodox Church has said he won't "dare encourage anyone to get the vaccine" because "this is the only vaccine that has not been tested on animals and is being tested directly on humans; accidents have already happened."
"The thing that cures the most is praying — much more than any vaccine," Petrescu declared on prime time news.
"We imperatively refuse this vaccine for religious reasons, but also because it has not been thoroughly scientifically tested," Abp. Vlasie of the Old Calendaristic Romanian Orthodox Church said in an official statement.
Meanwhile, GOA sources told Church Militant they were concerned about the increasingly "woke" actions of Elpidophoros after the archbishop participated in a June 2020 protest advocating the Marxist-led, pro-LGBT and pro-abortion Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Critics said that Elpidophoros led the march during the pandemic despite having closed his churches.
Moreover, the archbishop backed the criminal George Floyd but failed to mention his own Greek Orthodox police officer, Shay Mikalonis, was shot in the head at a BLM protest the day before the archbishop's march.
Elpidophoros came under fire after he offered the closing benediction for the third night of the Democratic National Convention in August 2020.
Elpidophoros has also been accused of silencing any criticism of his policies by blocking thousands of followers, including many prominent Christian commentators, from his Twitter feed.
The archbishop was widely mocked after he issued a decree ordering clergy to administer the Eucharist using "multiple metal spoons that will be single-use during the distribution of Holy Communion."
"Following each appointment, the spoons will be submerged in boiling water to cleanse them," Elpidophoros ordered, also requiring individuals and families to receive Communion "by appointment ONLY" and "only at their local parish." [emphasis in the original]