Greek Orthodox Churches In Australia Still Having Congregants Share Wine: ‘Holy Cup Cannot Carry Disease’

Greek Orthodox Church leaders celebrate Easter.
Chris McGrath / Getty Images

The Greek Orthodox Church in Australia has pushed back against coronavirus restrictions, saying that its churches would not stop having congregants sip wine from the same spoon because they say “the holy cup cannot carry disease.”

That message came from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, which said this week that while they were asking people who show signs of illness to avoid church gatherings, they would not stop from the worship tradition of drinking wine communally. As ABC.net.au reported, the move has come under fire from the Australian Medical Association, which said the Greek Orthodox church is putting people at risk.

As the report noted, the Catholic Church and Anglican Church, which both serve wine in a common cup, have both ceased the practice amid the global spread of the coronavirus. But the Greek Orthodox Church said that they did not believe diseases could spread from this cup due to its holy nature.

“But once we decide to go to church, we believe there is absolutely no possibility of contracting disease from the holy cup,” said diocese spokesperson Steven Scoutas.

“We believe that no disease or illness can exist in holy communion, which we believe is the body and blood of Christ.”

Officials across the world have instituted measures to end public gatherings and prevent person-to-person contact, which is how the COVID-19 virus spreads. Many churches have called off worship services, with some moving to use online streaming to reach congregants. Those who do need to go out for necessities are recommended to stay several feet away from people as much as possible.

Church congregations around the world have already been linked to outbreaks of the virus. As AFP reported, more than half of the 8,200 coronavirus cases reported in South Korea were linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a religious sect that the report noted has been referred to as a cult. The report noted that a church member attended at least four services in the city of Daegu before learning they were diagnosed, causing the virus to spread to others.

The announcement from the Greek Orthodox church in Australia has drawn criticism, especially in contrast with the often dire measures being taken to stop the spread of the disease. Many of the hardest-hit countries have instituted national lockdowns, telling people to remain in their homes and only go out for essential trips like food and medicine, and even these visits have been limited in some places.