On the 6th of May 2020, His Grace Bishop Siluan forwarded a letter of appeal to the Australian Prime Minister, The Honourable Scott Morrison. In his opening paragraph, the Bishop greeted Mr Morrison with the after-feast of Easter:
Allow me to greet you in the joyous spirit of Christ’s Resurrection which we celebrate not as a mere religious festival, but rather as the very cornerstone of the faith we live and preach, without which as the Holy Apostle Paul declares, “our faith would be in vain. Christ is Risen!”
In his pastoral concern for the faithful entrusted to him, His Grace appealed to the Prime Minister for a relaxation of Orders for those of faith, underlying the spiritual and psychosomatic impact the current separation from the Eucharistic assembly is having on our faithful:
First and foremost, my major concern is the spiritual impact the separation from the Eucharistic assembly (synaxis) is having on our faithful. Research has clearly established, as you are certainly aware of, that social isolation and loneliness is linked to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental health conditions, including; high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. Added to these physical and mental health risks, continued separation from the Eucharist for many Orthodox Christians dramatically, apart from exacerbating these risks, is taking its spiritual toll... By adding this separation from Christ within the Eucharistic gathering, the faithful are experiencing escalating levels of anxiety and despondency. My fear is that extending the present Orders relating to social isolation, more specifically to the closing of churches for public worship, for any protracted period of time could well be more deadly than the coronavirus itself.
It was in the context of the above that the Bishop made the following request:
I suggest that, whilst pursuing containment of the virus, there be adjustments to these Orders that can address the concerns I have raised…A return to gatherings in places of worship respecting the 4 square metre rule would be one such way of achieving this.
Furthermore, His Grace felt it necessary to accentuate the following:
I would however, also like to add, that the Church’s ministry is essential to society. From a theological, or spiritual perspective, the Church is the Ark of Salvation; from a medicinal/pastoral perspective, it has played and continues to play a pivotal role in the area of mental health and overall well-being.
In his Easter message, the Prime Minister spoke of, “working together with an unparalleled sense of purpose, unity and cooperation.” His Grace concluded his letter, assuring Mr Morri-son that he welcomed the opportunity of meeting and working with him to find the best possible remedy for the situation at hand.
Secretariat of the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanate of ANZ