Archbishop calls for church bell-ringing over continued church closures

Archbishop Urmas Viilma.
Archbishop Urmas Viilma. Source: ERR

Head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Estonia (EELK) Archbishop Urmas Viilma has called for churches to toll their bells next week in an effort to prompt the government to allow places of worship to reopen for public services, Baltic News Service reports, noting that other areas of life were seeing a gradual lifting of restrictions as the government's coronavirus emergency situation exit strategy gathers pace.

Churches have been closed for public worship since mid-March, meaning no face-to-face easter services were held this year, and have been livestreaming their services online, in addition to broadcasts on radio channels which carry programs of a faith-based nature, such as Pere Raadio.

At the same time, the proof of the efficacy of the bell ringing would be in the pudding, Archbishop Viilma said, and hinged on whether the government heeded the aural injunction or not. If they did, this would be followed by further tolling expressing gratitude.

"If we receive a message that we can invite people to attend services again and take part in the sacraments with the congregation, while adhering to the rules in effect, such as the 2+2 rule, obligation to disinfect and so on, the bells will be sounded in gratitude and joy," Archbishop Viilma said, according to BNS.

"Until no message allowing public religious services is delivered, the bells will sound in a peaceful yet powerful demonstration marking the preparedness of the church and members of the congregation to gather for services," Viilma went on, adding that services and the administration of the sacraments have been on hold for 50 days so far, under the current emergency situation.

The archbishop noted that with restrictions being relaxed in many other areas, he has made specific proposals, together with other Estonian church leaders, to the prime minister regarding the resumption of services and provision of the sacraments.

The government has yet to deliver a clear signal in this regard, BNS reports.

The archbishop has instructed ministers of religion and congregations to ring their church bells twice, at noon and 3 p.m., on Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week, for a total of five to ten minutes, accompanied by a scripture reading and prayer, where possible.

The emergency situation, enacted on March 12, is currently set to expire on May 17.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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