A Romanian archbishop who has gained a reputation for flouting coronavirus restrictions will be investigated after thousands of believers attended an Epiphany service he presided over in a horse-drawn carriage at the Black Sea.
Archbishop Teodosie said the investigation was without merit and said he was not responsible for worshipers keeping a social distance or wearing face coverings to the service and an outdoor ceremony, a statement from his office said Thursday.
Nonetheless, Constanta county police said a criminal complaint had been lodged against him on Wednesday on charges of violating Covid-19 restrictions at Wednesday’s Epiphany service.
The archbishop has constantly defied restrictions related to the virus_ even celebrating Easter a month late in defiance of the lockdown. His latest run-in with police was less than a week ago when he officiated a two-hour service attended by 100 Orthodox worshipers on New Year’s Eve in violation of current restrictions. Police refrained from handing out fines.
Several thousand faithful took part at the Epiphany service on Wednesday at the Black Sea port of Constanta.
They started with a service at the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral and walked toward the Tomis Port accompanied by a phalanx of priests and police for another ceremony on the shores of the Black Sea.
The archbishop said pilgrimages and religious processions were permitted under current rules, adding that police were present at the service who made sure worshipers followed public health rules.
The Black Sea port of Constanta was put under lockdown several weeks ago due to rising coronavirus cases but the archbishop continued to hold services defying restrictions.
Under the restrictions there is a curfew from 11pm to 5 am.
Constanta ended a lockdown last week after cases fell. There were 179 new cases in Constanta county on Thursday.
Romania reported about 5,000 new cases on Thursday, after almost 31,400 tests. Some 15.77% of people tested came out positive.