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Mount Athos monks put trust in God – and vaccines

In a monastery on Greece’s Mount Athos, Father Makarios is reading the gospel as he waits for his vaccination.A drive is on to vaccinate some 1,600 monks in this closed community in northern Greece, which is more than a thousand years old and popular with visitors.But the coronavirus has spread like wildfire here, and many of the monks are elderly. Nine have died since the start of the pandemic and many in the 20 monasteries have been infected. Vaccination rates are only 40%. And a relaxation of safety measures has made problems worse at the tourist hotspot.Seventy-year-old Father Makarios says he “approached death” after catching COVID, but he initially struggled to reconcile science and religion.”I did have some thoughts about whether it is needed, whether it’s unnecessary, of course we have faith in God and God protects us and we know not a hair of our head falls without God knowing about it and allowing it, but further to this science is something in the hands of God, God enlightens the scientists so they can protect humanity.”Pilgrims sometimes ask the monks for their advice on the vaccine.Father Epifanios has no doubts about its usefulness.”Medicines are medicines, they are not holy water, they try to treat people’s health as much as is humanly possible. I hope God will enlighten scientists so they can complete their work with this vaccine.”After seeing others fall ill or catching the virus themselves, at least 30 monks have stepped up to be vaccinated this month.

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