In era of coronavirus, Greek church says Holy Communion will carry on

FILE PHOTO: A Greek Orthodox faithful kisses an icon of Jesus Christ at the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens April 7, 2015. Orthodox believers will celebrate Easter on April 12. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s Orthodox Church said that Holy Communion, the partaking of wine soaked in bread from the same chalice for atonement from sins, would continue despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Debate has raged in deeply religious Greece on whether it would be prudent for the Church to continue the ritual, where worshippers sip from the same spoon.

The Greek Orthodox Church attempted to put a stop to the chatter on Monday: “This cannot be the cause of the spread of illness,” the Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Church, said in a statement.

Although it didn’t elaborate, senior members of the Church have told Greek media Holy Communion, representing the blood and body of Christ, was without blemish. “Whoever attends Holy Communion is approaching God, who has the power to heal,” Metropolitan Seraphim (eds:one name) told Greece’s Alpha radio.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Greece stood at 84 on Monday, but no fatalities so far, a relatively low toll for Europe. Many people have mild symptoms.

Not everyone is convinced by the Church’s approach.

“I’m not saying that its bad to do that (Holy Communion), but there is a 50-50 chance you could catch it,” said George Moros, 37.

Belief in divine intervention aside, some Greeks said they would continue a ritual many consider part of their identity as Christians.

“And by the way, it contains alcohol and kills the virus,” said Marios Volis, 50, a navy captain.

Reporting By Michele Kambas and George Georgiopoulos, Editing by William Maclean