BNN ANALYSES | A great shortage of pastors. What about the ones not vaccinated for Covid-19?

A church service is not the same as a concert of other type of entertainment. This is why the Ministry of Justice hopes they can be made open to all people, BNN was told by the minister’s advisor Imants Krastiņš.
As it is known, church service in person is available only to people who have a valid Covid-19 certificate. Many communities have decided to switch to online service due to this requirement. However, Christmas is close. Celebration of this holiday traditionally involves people coming to church for Christmas service.
On Monday, 13 December, the Operational Management Group gathered for a meeting. There they discussed holiday church service, as reported by Krastiņš.
He says the Ministry of Justice has promised to have the Cabinet of Ministers to decide in favour of expanding church service for all residents until 11 January, when the state of emergency is set to end.
While the situation is more or less clear with church services, the situation with pastors who are not vaccinated for Covid-19 is not. Will these people be allowed to hold church service?
Krastiņš says the Ministry of Justice has information about the number of vaccinated pastors in all major religious (Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Lutheran, etc.). Statistical data indicates 85% of pastors are vaccinated for Covid-19 in Latvia. «The minority is in the minority. For example in the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church only 17 out of 130 pastors are not vaccinated.»
«First of all, archbishops and bishops make a good example. The first big story was about the celebration in Aglona, when not only the Archbishop of the Catholic Church Zbigņevs Stankevičs but also the entire college of bishops made the decision to limit the celebration in Aglona to vaccinated residents only. Later the Catholic church released an announcement in which the Pope also invited people to get vaccinated. Catholics were very organised and agreed to vaccinate,» said Krastiņš.
He also said of all of the government’s partners, churches have proved the most obedient ones. «We have not seen a single mass infection case within religious communities!»
The advisor to the Ministry of Justice explains the ministry develops principles in a way to prevent the state from interfering with churches. «The ministry issues guidelines and heads of churches decide which conditions to impose for people who have close contacts with other people.»
Krastiņš does stress that vaccination is progressing and in a couple of months there will be very few people in Latvia who are not vaccinated. «The percentage in communities may be even better when compared to Latvia in general. This is because members of communities are more obedient and trust in the Lord and what the archbishop says on such topics.»
«There are some exceptions [when people do not follow epidemiological safety rules]. However, generally the church is of the mind ‘we have to make it through this difficult time’. Businesses and other organisations are generally of a different opinion. Some believe it an accomplishment to circumvent restrictions,» says the ministry’s advisor.
As for any extreme cases of community members committing to anything to avoid following the government’s guidelines, the ministry urges churches to reach out to such people and prevent people from going underground.
«It is highly important to let churches hold service. But everything should be organised in a safe environment and pastors should set a positive example.»
«If the government prohibits church service, they would get very angry. Currently, however, church management are proud of following rules of the government and setting an example.»
«Even if pastors believe vaccination is some torture, they still need to make peace with it, because they have to hold service,» says Krastiņš.
He also admits the government and its partners are not prepared to oppose letting pastors hold service while only having undergone Covid-19 tests.
There is a shortage of pastors as well. The same applies to teachers as well. However, teachers are not allowed to work if they are only tested negative – teachers have to be vaccinated. But why? Is it fair to let one group go about their business without vaccination and deny the same to another group?
The advisor to the Ministry of Justice explains the word «fair» is unusable here because churches are something of an exception to the rule, because they provide spiritual bread. It is not an entertainment venue, cafe, concert, etc., it is similar to one of the most basic needs people have – eating, only in a spiritual sense.