The Australian Medical Association has strongly criticized the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia for what it calls “an ill-considered and unscientific position to hold.”
In an encyclical to his faithful in Australia, Archbishop Makarios wrote:
“I responsibly assure every faithful person that up until now in the history of our Church there have never been any cases where an epidemic of infectious disease has been transmitted through Holy Communion.”
A spokesperson for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, Rev. Steven Scoutas, told media that anyone showing signs of illness should stay away from church gatherings.
“But once we decide to go to church, we believe there is absolutely no possibility of contracting disease from the holy cup,” he said. “We believe that no disease or illness can exist in holy communion, which we believe is the body and blood of Christ.”
The move was criticized by the Australian Medical Association (AMA), which said parishioners were being put at risk, especially when the majority of them were elderly.
“I would doubt very much their faith would provide the protection they believe,” AMA associate professor Julian Rait said.
“It’s an ill-considered and unscientific position to hold, and it’s putting people at risk.”
The president of the secular Greek Orthodox Community of New South Wales, Harry Danalis, said the church needed to follow the advice of medical authorities.
“I think they’re morally bound and legally bound to follow those directions,” he said.
However, the Australian Archdiocese insisted it would be business as usual.
“It’s not a matter of listening to [anyone]. It comes down to religious rights. If a government is going to impose its own view on matters of faith, where does one stop? We will continue as we have during the [past] centuries,” Reverend Scoutas said, according to numerous Australian media reports.
The debate about whether or not Greek Orthodox Churches should close and/or discontinue the practice of communion is raging throughout the world.
In Greece, the Church’s governing body, called the Holy Synod, has refused to shutter churches and even went as far as telling parishioners that Coronavirus cannot be transmitted through communion.
In the United States, where each Metropolis has its own head and all Metropolitans have jurisdictional authority over their own affairs, only the Metropolis of Chicago has forced all churches to close.
The Metropolises of Boston and Detroit have passed the responsibility on to the local priest, while Metropolises of New Jersey, San Francisco, Denver and the New York-area parishes remain open.
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