The death of a high-ranking bishop of Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church has thrust the institution back into the national spotlight, several months after it took the intervention of the country’s prime minister to impose the cancellation of services.
In a strongly worded statement issued by the Church’s Holy Synod based in Athens, the Church lashed out against what it called “neurotic” criticism over its practices of distributing Holy Communion during the pandemic.
The Church’s statement was in response to a flurry of media activity following the death of Metropolitan Ioannis of Langada, a high-ranking bishop in northern Greece who was a vocal proponent of maintaining the church’s single-spoon communion practices during the pandemic, arguing that the virus couldn’t be spread in this manner.
Taking a jab at people the Church called “non-believers,” the statement targeted “Aspiring public opinion leaders who neurotically insist on engaging exclusively in the discussion of Holy Communion and impose unscientific correlations regarding the spread of coronavirus.”
“They even opine on issues of faith without having any knowledge or competence in the area of theology”, the statement adds. “Since the democratic state guarantees religious freedom, they do not have the right to demand that the state ban holy communion as ‘unhealthy’ just because they themselves choose not to believe.”
The Church of Greece’s full statement (in Greek) is here.
The Church believes it is impossible for Covid-19 or any disease to be transmitted through Communion, the tradition of serving a mixture of bread and wine from the same chalice and using a single spoon.
Doctors and experts have insisted that the virus can be transmitted through saliva.
The matter is not limited to Greece. In the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States, church leaders are split about their process for distributing Holy Communion to their faithful. Different practices abound, depending upon the decision of the ruling hierarch in a particular region, or Metropolis.
Archbishop Elpidophoros of America attempted to impose a national plan that involved the use of multiple spoons across the 500 churches in the United States but the ultimate decision was left to each Metropolitan, most of whom rejected this concept and instructed their parishes to continue with the single chalice and spoon.
The debate turned bitter in Canada, where the ruling hierarch, Archbishop Sotirios issued a directive for the use of multiple spoons, which was met with vocal opposition there.
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