A very public divide is growing in Canada over the directive by Greek Orthodox Archbishop Sotirios for churches in the Ontario region to use multiple spoons to distribute Holy Communion.
Numerous instances of public outrage in various churches in Canada were captured on video and a group is planning a demonstration outside Archdiocese headquarters to protest the directive.
Greek Orthodox churches in Canada followed the orders of government officials and closed to the public on March 17, reopening again with certain safety measures on June 12, 2020.
According to a statement from the Archdiocese that was emailed to faithful, a complaint was lodged against the Church by unnamed individuals whose names are known to the Archdiocese and, according to the Archbishop’s statement, will be released at a later date.
This complaint led to a decision to withhold communion altogether on Sunday, July 5 in all parishes, and a revision of the method of distribution of communion to be implemented by the Archdiocese for future services.
On July 12, after discussion with government authorities — according to the statement by Archbishop Sotirios — all parishes in the Ontario region received instruction to follow a single procedure for the the dissemination of communion, which included the use of separate stainless steel spoons for each individual receiving communion.
When the announcements were made in some parishes, faithful openly and vocally protested to priests against the directive, some shouting that Archbishop Sotirios was “anaxios,” or unworthy— considered a blasphemous expression in the Orthodox Church.
At St. George Church in Toronto, Fr. Triantafillos Porfiris clashed with a parishioner who, during the angry exchange, was revealed to be his doctor. Dr. Irene Polydoulis can be heard screaming her objections at the priest, who at one point throws back the podium in disgust and walks into the altar.
In another public exchange, Fr. Philip Philippou at St. John Church clashes with a parishioner who interrupted the announcement of the use of multiple spoons, yelling “unacceptable!”
The priest responded, saying that the parish and the Metropolis will be harmed if the directives weren’t followed and eventually called the parishioner “shameful” and asked him to leave the Church.
Archbishop Sotirios defended his decision, calling it a necessary temporary measure, given the “difficult times” the Church was facing.
“We must all realize – archbishop, the priests, the community councils and the people (the faithful), that we are living in difficult times. The instructions of the government authorities clearly state that it is forbidden to share objects of worship,” Sotirios said in his statement to faithful. “Therefore it is imperative for Holy Communion to be given with a separate spoon for each believer. This is a temporary measure depending on how long the Covid-19 will last.”
Regarding the accusations against the Archbishop and the demonstration that is said to be taking place, the Archbishop responded directly to the protesters in his statement.
“Some Christians shouted in the churches. An instigator near the microphone shouted three times ‘Sotirios is unworthy.’ I respond. I am not sinless. Every time I conduct the Divine Liturgy, I pray: ‘No one bound by carnal desires and pleasures is worthy to approach, draw near, or minister to You, the King of Glory… He who is without sin let him throw a stone first.’ Saint John Chrysostom says: ‘For more stormy billows vex the soul of the bishop than the gales which disturb the sea.’ Is it possible, I wonder, that those shouting feel how much the Archbishop is suffering and how hard he tried? Shouldn’t they be like Simon of Cyrene? Must they always ‘throw stones’ at the Archbishop?”
“As for the rally that some are organizing for Sunday, July 19, 2020, in front of our Archdiocese, I say to them: Personally, I do not mind. But this will harm Orthodoxy and Hellenism. We risk presenting ourselves to all others as self-destructive, so willingly ready to inflict harm on each other. It would be preferable for the leaders who are organizing this demonstration to contact me and have a meeting, in order to discuss and solve our problems as a family.”
“I pray and I ask you to pray also that God helps us recover from this grave affliction of Covid-19. To restore peace to the world. To live peacefully as one Christian family, as befits true Christians.”
The Canadian matter has gone viral through dozens of articles shared across various Orthodox news websites in Greece, Russia and beyond.
One Greek parody site called Luben TV mashed up the videos into a viral clip that poked fun at the outrage, using the Greek word for spoon (“Lavida”) and playing it against the pop song “La Vida Loca.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that Archbishop Sotirios of Canada’s directive regarding Holy Communion applied to all Canadian churches. The archbishop’s directive only applies to churches in the Ontario region. (UPDATED JULY 21).
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