Greek health officials announced on Saturday that 21 individuals had tested positive for Coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 66.
Most of the people who tested positive were individuals who were part of an organized religious pilgrimage that returned to Greece from Israel and Egypt, the health ministry said in an announcement.
The group returned to Greece on Feb. 27 and most of the cases are isolated to the town of Amaliada, in western Greece.
Meanwhile, the issue of the fast-spreading virus has brought attention in Greece to the influential Greek Orthodox Church’s response to the crisis.
Greece’s Federation of Hospital Doctors issued a statement in an effort to please the Church stating that “no exception for religious, sacramental or metaphysical reasons should be made to state health warnings.”
The Church in Greece has reiterated its stance, that it will not stop the sacrament of Holy Communion, from taking place.
“It’s not possible to shut down churches, or to not give out Holy Communion,” bishop Chrysostomos of Patras, one of the areas with the most virus cases, said this week.
“Whoever believes that holy communion is life has nothing to fear, it’s a matter of faith.
“Across the centuries, there is no case of sickness spreading through Holy Communion,” he told Open TV.
“Wine contains alcohol, and viruses do not survive in alcohol,” bishop Ioannis of Langada in northern Greece claimed.
The health ministry last week cancelled all carnival celebrations, and this week announced a ban on public indoor gatherings in three western regions with the most cases.
But on the issue of church worship, the ministry has so far allowed local bishops to issue their own warnings, prompting strong criticism from the main opposition leftist Syriza party.
“How can we halt gatherings such as the carnival, and allow people in churches to drink out of the same spoon?” former deputy health minister Pavlos Polakis asked parliament this week.
Syriza leader and former PM Alexis Tsipras has called the failure to issue church warnings “anti-scientific, anachronistic and a threat to public health”.
In a statement this week, the governing Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece encouraged sick worshippers to “temporarily stay away from mass gatherings and avoid kisses and embraces.”
It also urged the faithful “to intensify prayer to Jesus Christ”.
Is The Pappas Post worth $5 a month for all of the content you read? On any given month, we publish dozens of articles that educate, inform, entertain, inspire and enrich thousands who read The Pappas Post. I’m asking those who frequent the site to chip in and help keep the quality of our content high — and free. Click here and start your monthly or annual support today. If you choose to pay (a) $5/month or more or (b) $50/year or more then you will be able to browse our site completely ad-free!