Greek priest arrested for holding Mass amid coronavirus restrictions

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Officials arrested a Greek Orthodox priest for performing Mass despite a nationwide moratorium on religious gatherings amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Metropolitan Seraphim of the island of Kythira turned himself into police on Saturday after receiving word that Mayor Stratos Charchalakis had ordered him taken into custody, the Greek City Times reported.

The priest reportedly told authorities that he had not yet received an encyclical from the archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos II, informing him of the government’s prohibition before the Friday service.

Charchalakis confirmed the arrest, saying in a statement that the service “completely violates the government’s mandates regarding church and religious gatherings and is currently in police custody. Reports were made and procedures were initiated. A case file has been drawn up and the competent prosecutor has been informed.”

The priest was released later Saturday and ordered to comply with the law going forward, according to the news outlet.

Exemptions for religious services have been a point of contention in the U.S. as well, with a Louisiana pastor continuing to hold services despite a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), meanwhile, has defended her state’s exemption for such gatherings, saying the state does not “have the ability to directly enforce and control” them.

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