Mt. Athos, May 13, 2020
The Sacred Community representing the 20 ruling monasteries of Mt. Athos has issued a statement on the importance and centrality of Holy Communion in the life of the Church and every Orthodox Christian in response to careless statements on the Holy Mysteries from Greek politicians.
The faithful must not be deprived of the Body and Blood of Christ and this present pandemic should not be connected to parishioners’ ability to commune, the Sacred Community writes in its statement, published on Romfea.
Last week, Professor Ilias Mosialos, adviser to the Greek government on the coronavirus pandemic and professor of health policy at the London School of Economics, called on the faithful to refrain from Holy Communion until a vaccine against the coronavirus is developed.
“It would be useful to consider whether it is possible to get it in a different and safer way,” the government adviser said.
In its statement, the Sacred Community noted that it shared in the spiritual thirst of all those who were not able to go to church during Holy Week and Pascha and receive Holy Communion.
As several Orthodox Synods and hierarchs have emphasized, the Athonites also note that the Eucharist is our source of sanctification and a share in the life of the Lord, and can in no way transmit any infectious disease or any other evil.
And responding directly to Mosialos’ statement, the Sacred Community “expresses [its] regret for public statements about the avoidance of Holy Communion, emphasizing that this greatest Mystery of the Orthodox Church is absolutely necessary for the spiritual life and the faithful cannot be deprived of it.”
The reception of Holy Communion in no way violates the state’s coronavirus protection measures, the Sacred Community writes, which have been implemented on the Holy Mountain as well.
“However, in no way should this pandemic and its treatment be linked to the ability of believers to participate in the Holy Mysteries of the Orthodox Church, thus limiting religious freedom and Christian worship,” the statement continues.
In these uncertain times, the Orthodox faithful ought to seek refuge in God even more, participating in the Church’s saving means, invoking Divine help through icons, relics, the saints, and so on.
“The time of the trial will pass, the restrictive measures will be gradually lifted, but let this trial, which the Lord has allowed for our sins, be an occasion for sincere repentance and a return to the teaching of the Holy Gospel of the Risen Christ, Who is the hope not only of each person personally, but of the universe—He Who drives away all fear, because He is the Victor of death,” the Athonite representatives write.
May the faithful unite in repentance, love, almsgiving, and condescension to the weakness of others, the statement concludes.