The synod of bishops of the Church of Greece, responding to growing unease about the spread of the Coronavirus in Greece and throughout the world, met in an extraordinary session and released an official statement urging caution, but telling faithful that that Coronavirus cannot be spread through Holy Communion.
According to the Church’s press release, an encyclical was sent to all Metropolises under the jurisdiction of the Church, encouraging prayer for the demise of the virus, as well as several safety measures to prevent it from spreading during worship services when large numbers of faithful gather.
On the subject of Holy Communion, the most important sacrament of the Greek Orthodox Church which involves faithful sharing wine from a common cup that is believed to have been transformed into the blood of Jesus Christ during services, the church categorically rejected the notion that Coronavirus can be transmitted.
“For the members of the Church, receiving Holy Communion and partaking in the Common Cup of Life, cannot, of course, be a cause of transmitting diseases, because believers throughout the ages know that receiving Holy Communion, even in the midst of pandemics, on the one hand is a tangible affirmation of the self-surrender to the Living God, and on the other hand is also a manifestation of love, which surpasses all justified human fears, “fear does not exist in love, but perfect love drives away fear,” (I John 4:18).”
The synod refuted various discussions that were taking place in the Greek media about a possible ban on Holy Communion.
“Those who approach ‘with the fear of God, faith and in love,’ freely and without any compulsion, receive the Body and Blood of Christ, which becomes “medicine of immortality and unto life eternal.”
Churches throughout the world that use the same practice of sharing a common cup are taking measures to help prevent the spread of the disease. Roman Catholic Churches throughout the United States have stopped using a common cup, while the Romanian Orthodox Church has asked faithful to bring their own plastic spoons if they intend to take communion.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America issued a directive to its 500+ parishes that included numerous prevention measures, but said that Holy Communion should proceeds as normal.
The full press release (in Greek) by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece is here.