Georgian Orthodox church: “Refusing communion from a shared cup is refusing the Savior”
“Taking communion from a shared cup is the highest confirmation of unity and love for Christ and for each other, and one who refuses to do this, refuses the Savior!” announced the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate today in a statement.
This is in response to recent public criticism of the church. The patriarchate expresses bewilderment over why their weekly congregations garner such attention, while similar numbers of people are gathering elsewhere.
“The number of parishioners in the church is much smaller than, for example, the number of people using public transport (buses, metro) daily, when necessary, to go to pharmacies or grocery stores. Most people who oppose the age-old practice of the sacrament do not have the proper knowledge or faith to understand its spiritual significance. ”
The statement also claimed that some media sources are trying to convince the public that the church is responsible for the problems with the coronavirus:
“They say that we are exacerbating the coronavirus situation. At the same time, it seems that some media agencies are artificially eliciting this response among the public in order to associate the church with potential problems in the future. This is despite the church’s efforts to maximize its compliance with safety measures established by the state and the National Center for Disease Control. ”
In particular, in order to avoid overcrowding, the Georgian Orthodox Church is permitting the clergy to conduct services on different days of the week, while maintaining a distance between people of 2 meters inside the churches and 1.5 meters in the yard.
The Patriarchate also encourages people who feel ill to stay home until they recover completely. Parishioners of the Orthodox churches in Greece, Bulgaria and Ukraine no longer attend services due to the coronavirus threat.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has also stopped holding church services. Nevertheless, according to a decision made by the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church on March 20, the sacramental ritual has not changed – believers still use shared cups.
The day after the meeting of the Holy Synod, a state of emergency was declared in the country, and gatherings of more than ten people were banned. Despite this, a Sunday service was held on March 22 at the Holy Trinity Church in Tbilisi, attended by the head of the Georgian church, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II.
Both elderly people and young children attended the liturgy. Parishioners were warned by church officials to keep their distance from each other. However, in practice, compliance with this recommendation proved to be impossible. The communion ceremony was conducted using a shared cup.
As of March 25, there are 73 reported cases in Georgia. 4055 people are in quarantine, and 252 people are under surveillance in hospitals. Three Georgian citizens infected with coronavirus died in Spain. A state of emergency was declared in Georgia on March 21, and on March 23, the cities of Marneuli and Bolnisi were quarantined due to coronavirus cases.