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#419949 04/03/20 08:31 PM
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Hi guys,
I have seen multiple news reports saying that the Russian Orthodox Church has allowed faithful to confess by phone during these coronavirus times.
Sounds like rubbish to me, but thought that I might ask you knowlegeable folks if you can confirm or deny this, and provide reliable sources?
Thanks!
Filipe

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I can only offer this redacted email from one Parish Priest in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America:

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Greetings Beloved in Christ. Many of you have asked me about Confession. How can we make our Confession prior to Pascha when the church is closed? I discussed this issue with Bishop N this morning. Bishop N advised that you can call me on my cell phone and make your Confession and receive spiritual direction from me, but that I cannot give you the absolution over the telephone. A Sacrament cannot be transmitted over the telephone.

Having made your Confession and received spiritual direction, you can then come to the church after the lock down is rescinded and receive the absolution in the church. So...I know it's far from ideal, but if you want to make your Confession to me over the telephone, you can do so. I will not be able to give you the absolution, however, until after the travel ban is lifted.

I want to stress that you do not have to call me and make your Confession over the telephone. If you wish to wait, and make your Confession when you are again able to come to the church, that is fine. Only those who wish to Confess prior to Pascha should call.

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Christ is in our midst!!

That makes sense in a lot of ways. The Mysteries/Sacraments are meant to be a personal encounter with Christ. A personal encounter can't be done remotely--we don't get married with the couple being at a distance. We don't baptize and chrismate a child with the child at home or across the state. We certainly can't commune with Christ from the Chalice by any way but being right there.

I understand that it's tough, but we need to understand that this is a test for us, as so many things are in this pilgrimage. Think of the many people during the Soviet period who could not get to confession or Holy Communion for years at a time because of no priest and no temple. Even today there are people in this world--think the Amazon situation just discussed in the Catholic Church--who do not have regular access to sacraments for a year or more on end.

This is our time to do what Bishop Alexis recommended in another thread here--Words to Ponder.

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I asked a Russian orthodox priest I know who is close to Hilarion - from whose interview the original confusion spread - and he confirmed that the "phone confession" would be pastoral, like spiritual guidance, and in no way sacramental.
In the original interview Hilarion did speak of confession by phone but never said it would be sacramental. Its understandable that the press would have come away with the wrong impression, but good to have things cleared up.

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This is the link for the original interview
https://mospat.ru/ru/2020/04/04/news184295/

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Christ is in our midst!!

This brings to mind a story told by Father Dmitri Dutko in the book "Our Hope," describing his sermons during the Soviet period. He tells of two women who decided they wanted to go to confession. If memory serves, one was Orthodox and one was Catholic (don't remember if Eastern or Latin Catholic). The only church in the place where they lived was 45 miles away. They walked the 45 miles together. When they arrived they discovered that the fee for having a confession heard was 5 rubles each. (I would have to find the book and see if this was set by the priest or the Communist Party official who was in charge of the church.) Neither had 5 rubles; each only had 3. But instead of cursing the Church or the priest or anything else, it is said that they went outside the church building, sat against the wall and cried--before going home. The patience of true believers in the face of trial is something to ponder in these times. We will have our churches opened in the Lord's good time; others have had much heavier crosses to bear.

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Christ is in our midst!!

Filipe YTOL:

On this forum, we do not address hierarchs by their name without their title. His Eminence should be referred to as "Metropolitan Hilarion," not simply by his monastic name. I doubt the priest you heard this from would dare do that. In any event, please respect both the person and his office.

Bob
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Christ is in our midst!!

My diocese has forbidden entry into any of our churches, as of last Thursday, until further notice. Heretofore, we could go for private prayer from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. No service, blessings, or any church activity is permitted on church property until further notice--that includes no outdoor liturgies, no confessions, no blessing of Paschal foods.

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Statement of the ACOB-USA Executive Committee Concerning Holy Week and Pascha (Easter)


To the Clergy and Faithful Orthodox Christians of the United States of America:

During this period of crisis, we, members of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, are meeting in conference call sessions every Friday to continually monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, we discuss both pastoral and practical matters concerning the operational situation of our churches. As such, allow us first to thank all the medical health professionals, first responders, delivery personnel, and clergy who put themselves on the front lines in a sacrificial manner for the protection of our health and salvation.

We are facing unprecedented circumstances in extraordinary times. Many guidelines from various jurisdictions, following State and Federal regulations as well as CDC recommendations, have been successfully implemented in parishes around the country, helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. After consultation with public health and insurance officials, law enforcement, theologians, and pastoral care professionals, we, members of the Executive Committee, have reached a consensus concerning Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Pascha (Easter) and strongly encourage all Bishops of the Assembly to implement the following recommendations:

1. Services, celebrated by a maximum of five people consisting of a Priest, a Deacon, Chantor(s), and/ or Server(s), continue in the churches and may be streamed online for the faithful to pray from their homes.

2. None of the traditional material offerings are to be distributed to the faithful in any way, including palms and/or pussy willows, flowers, candles, and eggs, etc.

3. Spiritual guidance may be heard over the phone, but the implementation of the Sacrament of Confession and Prayer of Absolution remains at the discretion of the local Bishop.

Whereas some Bishops might implement more stringent practices out of love and concern for their flock and broader society, less stringent approaches will put the Faithful and their Clergy at high risk and should be avoided by all Bishops.

These measures mitigate the risk of transmission due to proximity. We affirm that the Eucharist is truly the Body and truly the Blood of Christ. These measures should in no way be seen to diminish this sacred and eternal Truth.

The Church presently calls upon us, as the source of blessings, to nurture us in the commandments of Christ and lead us to His Kingdom. As the Church tells us when to fast, and when not to fast, we listen and do our best to obey these instructions. In like manner, when we suffer together in our isolation and are unable even to receive the Eucharist because of mandated distancing, we are in reality, due to circumstance, also in full communion as the Body of Christ. As we unite – as faithful Christians, as a nation, and as a global community – to stop the spread of COVID-19, may the blessings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you all!

Conveying our paternal blessings with love in the Lord,

Archbishop Elpidophoros, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Metropolitan Joseph, Vice-Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Archbishop Michael, Treasurer
Orthodox Church in America

Metropolitan Gregory, Secretary
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA

Bishop Irinej
Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central and South America

Metropolitan Nicolae
Romanian Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas

Metropolitan Joseph
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada, and Australia

Bishop Saba
Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church in North America

Metropolitan Tikhon
Orthodox Church in America[align:center][/align]

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"In like manner, when we suffer together in our isolation and are unable even to receive the Eucharist because of mandated distancing, we are in reality, due to circumstance, also in full communion as the Body of Christ. As we unite – as faithful Christians, as a nation, and as a global community – to stop the spread of COVID-19, may the blessings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you all!"

This statement of the Bishops is not unlike the "pious musings" you critiqued in another thread: Liturgy when there is no Liturgy. I guess it depends on where one gets sources. Pace e Bene!

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By surrendering Pascha the Hierarchs have no line to draw with the "civil" authorities.

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Originally Posted by Thomas the Seeker
By surrendering Pascha the Hierarchs have no line to draw with the "civil" authorities.

No one is surrendering anything. We are all caught in the bind of historical circumstances; except God, who is not bound to anything, including our festivals. Pascha's a movable feast, as they say, and "man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man".

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By surrendering Pascha the Hierarchs have no line to draw with the "civil" authorities.

Christ is in our midst!!

I must be a little slow. What do you mean "no line to draw"? Are you suggesting we challenge the civil authorities? What does that say about the Biblical instruction to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's? We owe the civil authorities an obedience that is delegated by God Himself for the good order of society. In this case, we are asked to forego gatherings for the health of society and ourselves in the face of a never-before-seen lethal virus.

I think we need to be careful here. In NYC the mayor has threatened to close churches and synagogues that flout the closure order. My gut tells me that with the anti-Christian atmosphere that has developed he would be upheld by the state and federal courts. We just need to read comments that follow news stories to see the level of hate we already face to understand that public opinion would be behind such a move. And the courts don't operate in a vacuum anymore. They seem to test the political wind when they make decisions, e.g., Obamacare has a "tax" and gay marriage is now a new "right."

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The Apostles defied the civil authorities when ordered to stop preaching that Christ is Risen. (Acts 5:29)

When the very center of our proclamation is taken from us (or, as it appears, voluntarily surrendered) what possible line remains where the Hierarchs might say to the civil authorities, "you have gone too far"?

Even in states such as Florida and Texas where the Governors have explicitly stated that church services may go on with precautions it is the Hierarchy which remains entrenched in fear.

I suspect that the fear stems from concerns about civil liability in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals. The Orthodox Church in America based much of its statement encouraging closure not on theology, not on protecting the vulnerable of the community, not on obedience to the civil authorities, but on the fear that by staying open someone MIGHT get sick, MIGHT sue, and the insurance carrier MIGHT not cover the defense.

That is a very flimsy house of cards built on multiple hypotheticals.

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Christ is in our midst!!

Tom, I sent you a pm

Bob

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