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The Greek government has relented and allowed limited attendance at churches celebrating the feast of the Epiphany. Authorities reversed a ban on attendance designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Not all churches opened their doors to the faithful during services Wednesday. But in those that did, congregations were limited from 25 to 50 people for the largest churches. And in some cases of overflow, the faithful were allowed in, a few at a time, for private prayers after the service was over. The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece had reacted angrily Monday to the ban imposed, without consultation, they claimed, the previous Saturday and had decided unanimously it would openly defy it.

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Thousands of Orthodox Christian worshippers in Bulgaria ignored warnings by health authorities to abstain from mass gatherings and instead kept to their centuries-old Epiphany traditions. Young men plunged into the icy waters of rivers and lakes across Bulgaria to retrieve crucifixes tossed by priests in ceremonies commemorating the baptism of Jesus Christ. The person who retrieves the wooden cross will allegedly be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy the whole next year. In the city of Kalofer in central Bulgaria, dozens of men dressed in traditional white embroidered shirts waded into the cold Tundzha River singing folk songs then danced on the riverbed. The mayor of Kalofer did not enter the river this year to show that coronavirus regulations should be followed.  

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Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church is rebelling against a government order briefly closing places of worship under a weeklong drive to tighten virus restrictions before the planned reopening of schools. The conservative Church’s ruling body issued a statement Monday directing priests to admit worshippers during indoor services for Wednesday’s feast of the Epiphany. The Holy Synod said it “does not accept” the new restrictions, in force from Jan. 3-10, and would send a letter of protest to the center-right government. The government said it hopes the Church will act responsibly. Church functionaries have shown a mixed response to pandemic containment measures, ranging from lukewarm support to virulent opposition. 

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In this handout photo released by Basmanny Court via Moscow News Agency, Father Sergiy, a Russian monk who has defied the Russian Orthodox Church's leadership, stands in a cage prior to a court session in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. Father Sergiy, who has castigated the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church leadership and denied the coronavirus existence, was detained Tuesday Dec. 29, 2020, by police at a monastery in the Urals and flown to Moscow where he will face criminal charges. (Basmanny Court, Moscow News Agency photo via AP)

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FILE In this photo taken on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, Father Sergiy, a Russian monk who has defied the Russian Orthodox Church's leadership speaks to journalists in Russian Ural's Sredneuralsk, Russia. Father Sergiy, who has castigated the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church leadership and denied the coronavirus existence, was detained Tuesday Dec. 29, 2020, by police at a monastery in the Urals and flown to Moscow where he will face criminal charges. (AP Photo/Vladimir Podoksyonov, File)

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FILE - In this file photo taken on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, Father Sergiy, right, a Russian monk who has defied the Russian Orthodox Church's leadership, speaks to journalists in Russian Ural's Sredneuralsk, Russia. Father Sergiy, who has castigated the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church leadership and denied the coronavirus existence, was detained Tuesday Dec. 29, 2020, by police at a monastery in the Urals and flown to Moscow where he will face criminal charges. (AP Photo/Vladimir Podoksyonov, FILE)

Montenegrin lawmakers have amended a law on religious rights and property that earlier was strongly opposed by the Serbian Orthodox Church. The parliament on Tuesday approved the legislative changes with 41 votes in the 81-member assembly. The revised bill was supported by the ruling pro-Serb lawmakers while pro-Western opposition boycotted the session. The changes relate to the sections on ownership that the Serbian church insisted were designed to strip it of its property in Montenegro. The church led months of protests earlier this year against the pro-Western government that was ousted by pro-Serb parties in an August election.

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Russian Orthodox Church Bishop Panteleimon, center, comforts patients suspected of having coronavirus as he visits a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. Russian authorities have reported over 3 million confirmed coronavirus infections, the fourth highest caseload in the world, and more than 55,000 deaths. (Sophia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP)

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A Russian Orthodox Church priest, right, leaves a red zone after visiting patients suspected of having coronavirus at a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. Russian authorities have reported over 3 million confirmed coronavirus infections, the fourth highest caseload in the world, and more than 55,000 deaths. (Sophia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP)

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Russian Orthodox Church Bishop Panteleimon, right, looks at a patient suspected of having coronavirus as his assistant comforts her at a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. Russian authorities have reported over 3 million confirmed coronavirus infections, the fourth highest caseload in the world, and more than 55,000 deaths. (Sophia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP)