AN APPEAL FROM HIS HOLINESS KAREKIN II, ON COVID-19

His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, has issued the following urgent appeal on the Coronavirus pandemic
Dear Faithful:
We are following with concern and prayer the developments around the globe regarding the Coronavirus. These are difficult times, when the world—including Armenia—is troubled by a pandemic, with disturbance to our lives and livelihoods.
With fatherly love, we urge our clergy and faithful people to exercise extreme caution, and to avoid public contact and large crowds.
We urge everyone to act with high personal and public consciousness and responsibility—not only for ourselves, but also with care for one another. We must deeply understand that the security of everyone’s life at this moment is our own personal responsibility. With trust in God, we pray for healing and spiritual strength for the infected and isolated. We extend our highest appreciation and blessings to the doctors who ceaselessly serve with the utmost effort, while operating under a state of emergency.
After consultation with the leaders of the Hierarchical Sees of the Armenian Church, and having discussed the situation with the bishops of Armenia today, we have hereby decided:
1. To schedule regular open church hours, so believers can make individual visits, offer private prayers, and receive Holy Communion and other urgent spiritual needs. In Armenia, churches will be open every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; these hours will be in effect for the period up to Holy Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Other diocesan jurisdictions are asked to make provisions suitable to their own circumstances.)
2. To conduct all celebrations of the Divine Liturgy behind closed doors, without the participation of faithful people; and if possible to broadcast the celebrations online;
3. To cancel the service of “Blessing the Children” on Palm Sunday (April 5), and to perform the Antasdan ceremony (the Blessing of the Four Corners of the World) and other ceremonies without the presence of the faithful;
4. To cancel the service of “Blessing of Expectant Mothers” on the Feast of the Annunciation of Blessed Virgin Mary (April 7);
5. To suspend ceremonies of Holy Matrimony;
6. To perform the Sacrament of Baptism only in case of urgency (e.g., in case the person to be baptized is ill);
7. In the case of funerals, only to perform the graveyard ceremony, urging mourners to refrain from organizing crowded funerals and memorial meal gatherings.
A Day of Prayer: March 18
In issuing these instructions for implementation by all of our church institutions, at the same time we announce that Wednesday, March 18, 2020, will be a national day of prayer. We invite everyone to join together in private prayer—from wherever they are located at the time—to ask the Lord to guide the world and our people to overcome this tribulation in a spirit of unity and mutual support. The prayer is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. in Armenia (which would be 11 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time).
Beloved people, in this difficult time, it is necessary to unite and show support to the government of the Republic of Armenia and all relevant governmental bodies. We should strictly follow the instructions and requirements set by the authorities.
Together, by the grace and mercy of our Lord, we will overcome this challenge with public solidarity, civic responsibility, and spiritual consciousness. Life is the most precious of divine gifts. We need to care for life by caring for one another, with love. Now is the time to bear witness to the love that unites us.
May the Lord’s blessing, grace, and mercy be with us and with all. Amen.
The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, March 16, 2020