Greek Orthodox Liturgies in Australia Suspended Amid Coronavirus Spread

Australian Archbishop Makarios. Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/greek.archdiocese

The Greek Orthodox Church earlier in the week suspended all liturgies in Australia after mounting criticism over its refusal to stop serving parishioners Holy Communion.

On Thursday, Australian Archbishop Makarios announced that all liturgies would cease following an order from global Church leaders.

“Due to the extraordinary measures that the Federal Government of Australia took to restrict the spread of Coronavirus, we are compelled to suspend public worship in our Churches,” Archbishop Makarios wrote to the Orthodox faithful.

“Our Churches will remain closed to the faithful. However, all Services, the feast days of the Saints, and the Divine Liturgies will be conducted only by the Priest and the Chanter. Sacraments and funerals will continue to take place but only in the presence of the immediate family members,” he added.

Despite pleas from Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, the Greek Orthodox Church had until then continued to share the same cup among dozens of congregants, who also kiss the hand of the priest after the liturgy.

“I understand the Church’s position that Holy Communion is sacred, but a spoon is not,” the Minister wrote.

“COVID-19 is a highly-transmissible virus and to continue without any changes will put the lives of our elderly parishioners at great risk,” she added.

More than 370,000 people identify as Greek Orthodox across the country, according to the latest Australian census data.