Unvaccinated priests are to be sent on mandatory leave, announced Cyprus’ Archbishop Chrysostomos II, warning of tougher measures if they continue to defy church rules on COVID-19.
Archbishop Chrysostomos, over the weekend, said he would be sending a dozen priests home on Tuesday, as they have refused to get vaccinated, while also advocating against the COVID-19 jab.
He said that 27 of 123 priests in the archdiocese remained unvaccinated, 15 of them have been exempted for medical reasons.
The head of Orthodox Church said the 12 priests would be suspended as of Tuesday for three months, noting that if they continued to defy him, the suspension would be extended to six months and could even be defrocked.
He said it was unprecedented to have priests and even theologians disobey their chief bishop.
Chrysostomos said some priests defied him, taking advantage of his frail health – he is a cancer survivor.
He argued that the priests and theologians refuse to get jabbed, act out of selfish motives, and influence churchgoers.
Despite vaccination remaining optional in the country, the Archbishop had issued strong guidelines to priests and theologians to get vaccinated.
The Archbishop has backed the government’s campaign to vaccinate the population from the start, being one of the first people to receive a jab in December 2020.
In July last year, Chrysostomos warned he would not tolerate employees who refuse to get vaccinated and priests who don’t wear masks and incite their flock to reject the jab.
COVID-19 infections have declined in recent weeks but remain high.
The number of hospitalized coronavirus patients also remains high, but health authorities say the system is coping.
January recorded the highest number of virus-related deaths per month in Cyprus since the pandemic.
According to the Health Ministry, 74.7% of the population have received the first jab, 71.1% are fully vaccinated, and 84.1% of adults are fully jabbed.