The Greek Orthodox church’s continued use of its traditional communion – in breach of government health advice – is being blamed for putting people at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Unlike the Catholic and Protestant churches, the traditional practice in the Orthodox church is for the priest to use a shared spoon to place the bread and wine directly into the mouth of those receiving communion.
The Greek Orthodox Church St Euphemia in Bankstown, in the virus hotspot of Sydney’s west, is still performing holy communion in clear breach of NSW Heath advice.
During a service on Saturday, about 70 churchgoers were offered bread and wine with the same spoon before the priest wiped each individual’s chin with a single cloth, news.com.au reported.
Worshippers expressed their concern, calling on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese to cease the common practice during the coronavirus crisis.
There has been strong resistance from some Archdiocese to stop the traditional method of holy communion during COVID-19.
Archbishop Makarios Griniezakis, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, was also contacted by churchgoers requesting he step in to stop the practice.
The email requested a safe place for worshippers during coronavirus restrictions, but the went unanswered.
Archbishop Griniezakis was previously criticised for saying there was no risk of infection.
He eventually gave in and suspended communion, but as NSW reopened, the practice once again continued.
NSW Health ordered all places of worship to enact a COVID-19 Safety Plan as of July 24.
Under the plan, places of worship were restricted to 100 people, or one person per four square metres, excluding staff, to ensure the safe distance of 1.5metres.
‘Consider modifying religious rites or rituals to avoid direct contact where practical, such as communion or other similar practices,’ the NSW Health website read.
‘Where this is not practical, ensure before and after each interaction with soap and water or hand sanitiser.
‘Avoid sharing books, drinking cups or other shared objects used during the service such as collection plates.
‘Also consider putting barriers around frequently touched objects of worship, such as shrines, relics or fonts, to prevent people frequently touching these.’
NSW recorded a further 19 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
Ten of those cases are linked to Thai Rock Wetherill Park, two to Thai Rock Potts Point, a staff member at Apollo Potts Point, three linked to funeral gatherings cluster, one linked to Crossroads Hotel and two in hotel quarantine.