Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel has issued an update on the Armenian Church’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this disruptive time for the world, I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the everlasting truth of his Gospel: “Be not afraid.”
Yesterday we received a directive from His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, addressed to all Armenian Church dioceses, and offering our faithful additional direction concerning liturgical services. (An English translation of Catholicos Karekin II’s directive may be read here.)
His Holiness has informed me that he and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, have been in consultation and are responding to this crisis together.
The following measures will be in effect immediately, and continue until Holy Thursday (April 9, 2020):
1. From now until Holy Thursday, clergy will conduct most of the prescribed liturgical services, including the Holy Badarak. However, no one except clergy will be permitted to enter the church during services. Clergy will pray and worship on behalf of all of us. We undertake this measure in order to abide by the increasing number of municipal, state, and federal regulations restricting public gatherings of even small numbers of people, and to minimize the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus.
2. For the time being, baptisms will only be conducted in emergency cases, where the child is seriously ill. Marriage ceremonies will not be conducted. For funerals, only the graveside service will be conducted. Families of the deceased are asked to limit the number of people attending the graveside service, and are urged not to organize large memorial meals.
3. Our people should be aware that in most municipalities, clergy have been prohibited from entering hospitals and nursing homes. On the urging of experts in the health professions, I have also directed our clergy to refrain from home visitations for the time being. We encourage the faithful to be in contact with clergy via phone and social media, whereby they will always be ready to speak and pray with you.
4. In consideration of the above measures, I am asking our people to check in regularly by phone and social media on vulnerable people in our communities: the elderly, the sick, single parents, recent immigrants and others that need support.
5. His Holiness Karekin II has proclaimed Wednesday, March 18, to be a worldwide Day of Prayer in the Armenian Church. At precisely 7 p.m. tomorrow, we are all asked to take that moment in the privacy of our homes, and offer our personal prayers to Almighty God. The Catholicos asks us to pray for all those who have been affected by the COVID-19 virus, among our people and throughout the world, and especially for all who are putting themselves in harm’s way in order to treat the sick and assure the continuation of basic services.
Please join the Day of Prayer this Wednesday at 7 p.m. in your local time zone. Since Armenians are spread across the globe, the effect will be for our people to be continuously offering prayers to God throughout the 24-hour period.
6. By way of general directions, as Bishop I have been in regular contact with His Holiness Karekin II, the Diocesan Council, all of our clergy, health authorities, and the expert medical professionals of the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization (AAHPO). We will remain in continuous contact for the duration of these circumstances. Naturally, all of us urge our people to observe, with the utmost seriousness, every precaution recommended by government agencies. In the coming days, we will issue further instructions regarding the Holy Week and Easter celebrations in our parishes.
Finally, we fully recognize the unprecedented nature of these measures, which leave all of us uneasy. Our church has no clear precedent to which to refer, as we respond to the challenge before us. In addressing concerns involving health, obedience to law, and urgent spiritual necessities, ideal solutions do not always present themselves.
What is certain in this time, as always, is the attentive presence of Almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ. We place our trust in his infinite love for humanity, and his limitless mercy and compassion. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray that our Lord will compensate for the frail steps we are taking, and have mercy on us.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and soundness of mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
With my prayers,