On Wednesday, the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church reportedly declared that yoga had no place in the life of Christians after the Greek media recommended the activity, as a means to ease stress amidst the Coronavirus outbreak. Labelling it as ‘absolutely incompatible’ with Christianity, the Church noted that yoga was not another physical exercise but instead a fundamental chapter in ‘Hindu religion.’
The decision regarding the same was made on Tuesday by the Greek Orthodox Church during a meeting chaired by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens. The Church had been a vocal critic of yoga since 2015. Last year, the Reverend Metropolitan Nektarios of Argolis cited the ancient Hindu practice as ‘dangerous’. He remarked, “We make a confession to God. This is the same thing that people do during yoga.”
On Thursday, an orthodox priest, Father Michael Konstantinidis, defended the diktat of the Church on a Greek TV network. He said that the decision was made by the Church in view of its experience with yoga practitioners. “If yoga offered what man wanted, we would be happy,” he was quoted as saying.
As per the International Yoga Federation, around 30 crores (300 million) people practise yoga around the globe. Yoga, the reference of which is found in 2500-year-old Hindu texts, has become popular across the world in recent years due to its mental and physical benefits. There is a debate as to whether yoga is an intrinsic religious practice due to the use of spiritual elements such as sun salutation and downward dog. June 21 has been adopted as ‘World Yoga Day’ by the United Nations.
Controversies involving the Greek Orthodox Church
Reportedly, the Church of Greece holds strong influence in religious affairs, and politics. Besides, it actively tries to foil supposed conversion attempts of orthodox Christians into other religions. However, BBC correspondents noted that it was unusual for the Greek Orthodox Church to make such a statement. According to Pew Research Survey, 90% of Greeks identify themselves as orthodox Christians.
The Greek Orthodox Church urged the clergy to not attend events organised by Lions International and Rotary organisation. It argued that the said groups indulge not only in social events but also religious acts. According to the Church, the organisations induct new members following a right to passage, vaguely addressed to God. Besides, it also warned orthodox Christians to be wary of the proselytising tactics a protestant group named ‘Hellenic Missionary Union.’ Amidst the pandemic, the Church made a bizarre claim that sharing cups during the Holy Communion would not spread Coronavirus infection.
A contentious circular issued by the Church, in this regard, said, “Orthodox Christians as members of the Church, of the one and only Body of Christ, do not need various neo-heretical movements, nor their various preachers from within or outside Greece, and remain faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it was originally delivered by the Holy Evangelists and interpreted by the Holy Fathers of our Church.”