After encouraging people to 'hurry to church,' Ukraine monastery becomes coronavirus hotspot

After encouraging people to 'hurry to church,' Ukraine monastery becomes coronavirus hotspot
© Getty Images

The historic Kyiv Pechersk Lavra or "Monastery of the Caves" in Ukraine has been linked to multiple coronavirus infections in many of its parishioners, following prior urgency from the head of the monastery to "hurry to the church."

The Orthodox Christian monastery known for its elaborate system of 11th-century catacombs has become a hot spot for the coronavirus in Ukraine, according to The Washington Post.

The monastery drew criticism in mid-March after unveiling a video calling for people to attend services.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Everyone hurry to church, read the Psalms, the Gospel, embrace one another," Metropolitan Pavel, the head of the monastery, said in a video in mid-March.

He added, "The most terrible epidemic is the sin that destroys human nature."

In the three weeks that have passed since Pavel's statement, he has gone back to say that he underestimated the seriousness of the virus, as the monastery now enforces rigid quarantine standards. 

Officials in Kyiv reported that over 140 monks and other attendees to the monastery have contracted the virus, with at least three deaths related to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

In all of Kyiv, the city has recorded 700 cases and 12 fatalities, with the entire country reporting 4,660 cases and 125 deaths.

Even Pavel has reportedly been hospitalized amid the proceeding pandemic, although authorities declined to say whether he contracted COVID-19.

ADVERTISEMENT

"He's in reasonable condition and had no complications. He has a number of other chronic conditions and was hospitalized for observation," said Metropolitan Kliment Vecheria, a church spokesman. "I think that it's possible that he will be released from the hospital soon."

Authorities have placed guards at the entrance of the monastery to keep out members of the public, performing mass testing for residents in the area and disinfecting the premises of the church.

While the monastery changed its tone towards the virus and requested parishioners to watch its Easter Sunday service online, some critics speculate whether the outbreak at the house of worship could have been avoided entirely.

On Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the public and referenced the monastery's recent outbreak.

"This whole situation demonstrates that your nationality, gender or religion are not important to coronavirus," Zelensky said. "It demonstrates that you cannot have a careless attitude toward the disease."