Veles prosecutors announced charges against bishop Agatangel, after he called on the faithful to freely come to the churches over the weekend and honor their deceased loved ones.
Macedonia is under a renewed lockdown for the Pentecost weekend – major cities like Skopje are fully locked down, while in smaller cities, citizens are allowed to leave their homes until 16h each day. On Pentecost, Christian faithful go to the cemeteries to pay respect to their loved ones, but the Government ordered that all cemeteries are closed, except for funerals. Churches will remain open.
Prosecutors said they are investigating the case and if Agatangel’s call violated the restrictions put in place. Healthcare Minister Venko Filipce criticized Agatangel, as did the chief PR guru of the ruling SDSM party Kosta Petrov. This is a marked change from the hands-off approach during the Muslim month of Ramadan, when Muslims were allowed to hold night long feasts. These iftar dinners are believed to be the main reason for the current spike in coronavirus cases. Bishop Petar of the Macedonian Orthodox Church publicly called out Minister Filipce for not making similar statements during the month of Ramadan. “Cat got your tongue then?”, bishop Petar said.
Macedonia is having the worst death and spread numbers since mid and late April, which were considered peak epidemic. The uneven approach to the various religious communities prompted outrage online, especially after the ruling party also sicced the police on opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski for allegedly not maintaining proper social distancing while in a restaurant. SDSM itself has dozens of top officials who are infected or in quarantine after the party insisted to continue campaigning for elections which it demands take place on July 5.