In one of the majestic monasteries of Mount Athos, Father Makarios reads the Gospel during the Divine Liturgy while awaiting coronavirus vaccination.
He says he knows how to distinguish religion from science: “I had different thoughts about whether a vaccine was needed,” he told Reuters.
“Of course, we have faith in God, and God protects us,” says the 70-year-old monk, and then confesses, “I almost died when I got Covid-19. However, science is in the hands of God, God enlightens scientists to protect humanity. “
The international news agency said the coronavirus has swept through Mount Athos and a vaccination campaign is under way for over 1,600 monks from the monastic community.
Since the start of the pandemic, nine monks have already died, and the spread of the coronavirus has been recorded in many of the 20 monasteries on Mount Athos. However, vaccination rates remain very low at 40%, and the relaxation of restrictive measures has exacerbated the problem with increased traffic this year.
At least 100 cases have been reported on Mount Athos since early October, according to Georgios Miteloudis, a physician at a local medical center.
“The danger is especially great in a gated community such as a monastery, which is a family. And it is difficult for members of the same family to protect each other, ”said Mr Miteloudis.
Khilandar Monastery was closed to the public from November 21 due to a sharp increase in the number of infected.
Seeing others falling ill or contracting the coronavirus, at least 30 monks rushed to get vaccinated this month. Many of the people living on the Athos peninsula are 70 and older and play an important role in society.
“On Athos, the oldest monks are called elders. They are the respected elders who rule the spiritual life here. They pass on their personal spiritual wisdom and their experiences, even their holiness, and we owe them a debt to protect them, ”says Mr. Miteloudis.
For some monks, vaccination is a battle between science and religion. But Father Epiphanius, who came to the polyclinic for the third dose, has no dilemma: “Medicines are medicines, not sanctification!”
Photo by Alexandros Avramidis
PS As we reported earlier, only 25% monks, some of them have already received the 3rd dose. Others still do not consider the vaccine necessary. And the abbot of the “New Brotherhood” of the Esfigmen monastery suggested imprison anti-vaccination monks…