Minister of Justice, Jānis Bordāns, encourages everyone to celebrate Easter at home, taking time to pray for Latvia and for the people of Latvia 08.04.2020
Easter is a special time when Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, currently an emergency situation has been declared in the country caused by the spread of Covid-19 around the world, including in Latvia, and it could affect any of us. In order to take care of public health safety and to reduce the risk of infection with Covid-19, strict restrictions on group gatherings have been imposed during the emergency situation, which also affect gathering for church services in all Latvian churches.
Minister of Justice, Jānis Bordāns: "This Easter, I call on everyone to be understanding and responsible in regard to the decisions taken by the government and towards each other. During the holidays, let us remember that the Bible says, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20). This means that each of us can create the special atmosphere of Easter by coming together in our homes, reflecting on the meaning of Easter, and by joining each other in prayer at our homes and in our families - for our country and for every person who is working at the moment to reduce the risk of the Covid-19 infection. By being united, we will contribute to improving the situation more quickly. And let us remember that every crisis at the same time is also a new opportunity for improvement. And especially at this time, when we need to comply with the safety measures in order to avoid endangering the physical well-being of ourselves and our fellowmen, it is equally important to draw attention to our mental health and not to neglect it."
In the light of the powers granted by the government, the Ministry of Justice draws special attention and provides clarification on the intended restrictions and their enforcement during Easter:
- During the time period from 10 to 12 April and from 17 to 19 April (depending on the timing of Easter celebrations) religious organisations are to ask citizens to stay at home and to participate in the special church services remotely, including via the internet, TV and radio.
- All special church services are to be planned without any visitors being present. Church services shall be held by the clergy within the scope of their duties, as far as possible refraining from performing religious rituals which involve direct contact.
- Recognising that the premises of religious organisations (churches) are public places and are not closed to visitors, religious organisations are directly subject to restrictions and rules regarding social (physical) distancing. The imposed order does not specify a specific number of persons who may be present in public places (including the premises of religious organisations). This means that anyone who is located in the premises of religious organisations shall be obliged to observe a social (physical) distance of 2 metres. This applies to both clergy during the church service, to individual visitors at the church, and to other persons, such as those who provide video/audio broadcasts of the church service. Consequently, religious organisations have an obligation to ensure that visitors are able to observe a 2-metre distance at any place within the church, including when entering the church building. The maximum recommended number of visitors who may be present at the same time shall be 25 persons, excluding clergy and church staff.
- Religious organisations shall ensure the availability of a hand sanitizer at the church entrance, encouraging visitors to wear face masks.
- Religious organisations shall cooperate with the State Police and other institutions to ensure public order and the observance of epidemiological requirements.
Therefore, everyone is strongly encouraged to stay at home and not attend churches during Easter services in order to take care of public health safety and to reduce the risk of infection for themselves and others.
The Minister for Justice greatly appreciates the active involvement of representatives of religious organisations in explaining the security measures that have been introduced, and encouraging believers to “stay at home”, abstaining from visiting public places as much as possible, including visiting the church, using the time instead for practicing religious activities in their home.
J.Bordāns calls on all congregations to publicly inform church members about the new restrictions and the need to observe a 2-meter distance, ensuring maximum caution.