It would be blasphemous to think that Holy Communion could spread viruses, but people were free to choose whether they want to receive it, the Church of Cyprus said on Wednesday.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Holy Synod argued that receiving Holy Communion from the same spoon as hundreds of others was safe for believers.
“It would be blasphemous to think that the body and blood of the Christ could transmit any disease or virus,” it said. “Christianity’s centuries-old experience has no single incident of such transmission to display.”
Christian Orthodox believers take the Holy Communion, a warm sweet red wine, from the same spoon used for everyone.
A recent announcement by the Church of Greece ahead of Easter, that Covid-19 cannot be contracted through the Holy Communion, sparked a debate in Cyprus too.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said Tuesday night that in his personal view, people “shouldn’t receive the Holy Communion.” But the ministry has avoided issuing an official announcement.
The Holy Synod said priests serving in hospitals where communicable diseases were treated, who gave communion to the patients and who had to drink what was left – as is the rule – were never infected.
Attending the service is done with faith, which protected people from any dangers, the Church said.
“Attendance is voluntary. No one is forced. If some people feel that they want to stay away at this time, they are free to do so,” it added.
The Church was also displeased by a ban on gatherings of over 75 people announced by the government on Tuesday in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
The Holy Synod said it would hold its masses without fail and would not force anyone to take part.
“Nor will we tell someone they have to leave a service because the allowed number had been reached, as if it’s just any old gathering,” it said.
The synod called on church staff to adhere with the instructions of the authorities to maintain a high level of cleanliness, air the buildings, and clean the icons kissed – form of worship- – by the faithful immediately.
“We urge the faithful who wish to receive Holy Communion to attend services on Wednesday’s and Fridays … to avoid high attendance in churches on Sunday.”