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Orthodox priest arrested in Greece for holding mass during coronavirus lockdown

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Orthodox priest of the Saint Spyridion church in Cargese attend a religious ceremony, on April 22, 2019
Orthodox priest of the Saint Spyridion church in Cargese attend a religious ceremony, on April 22, 2019   -   Copyright  PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP
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An orthodox priest was arrested in Greece on Saturday after celebrating mass in a church, following the suspension of religious office ordered by the country during the coronavirus outbreak.

Metropolite Seraphim of Cypher island, off the Greek coast, had celebrated religious office on Friday night, ahead of the Orthodox Easter celebrations starting on 19 April, the AFP reported, citing police sources.

After individual denunciations, the metropolite was interviewed by the police on Saturday and was given a notification of the law.

He was released after being asked to follow the measures applied by the Greek government and the Church of Greece amid the coronavirus crisis.

Since the first death of COVID-19 in Greece on March, 12, the government adopted a strict lockdown to stop the spread of the virus, closing schools, businesses and public places and banning public gatherings of more than 10 people.

On Monday, the powerful Church of Greece, which had not been expressly asked to close by the government, decided to suspend mass and keep churches open only for "individual prayers".

The Education and Religion ministry then called on Thursday for the suspension of "all religious celebrations in all churches, except for funerals and individual prayers".

Since Thursday, 222 violations of the government's measures have been reported across Greece and 233 people have been arrested, according to a statement from the Greek police.

Most violations were for cafés, restaurants, hair salons and other shops, which must remain closed, the police document, cited by AFP, said.

Greece has had 13 deaths and 530 cases of coronavirus, according to the latest figures.