Toronto, July 7, 2020
On June 20, the city government of Toronto issued revised COVID-19 guidelines that ban the offering of Holy Communion to the faithful.
The new guidelines read:
All places of worship must adhere to the following requirements:
Suspend all communion-related activities as advised by Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health.
The Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 advice calls for “Suspend[ing] activities that increase risk of disease transmission, including,” “Sharing or distributing materials or objects, which may include but is not limited to: books, communion, microphones, prayer mats, prayer shawls, water, etc.”
The new guidelines also “Suspend indoor singing activities and choir service,” and limit participation in services to no more than 30% of the capacity of the premises.
The California State Department of Public Health also banned church singing last week.
The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto of the Patriarchate of Constantinople published a video of the Sunday service from July 5 at St. Nicholas Church in Toronto on YouTube, in which Fr. Fanourios Pappas emotionally tells his congregation that just the night before he had been informed by diocesan authorities that, per the city’s instructions, he was not to offer the faithful Holy Communion.
The Greek Metropolis of Toronto is headed by Metropolitan Sotirios.
Though the full video is no longer available, the portion with Fr. Fanourios’ announcement has been reposted:
Referring to the “persecution of the Church,” Fr. Fanourios tells his flock:
My brethren, today, I have a great sadness. Last night, we were told from our Archdiocese that the city of Toronto forbade Holy Communion for the area of Toronto, and it looks like the persecution of the Church continues. I have no words to express my disappointment and my sadness. And I feel that I cannot share with you today any sermon because I feel that I cannot talk about faith, about Christ. I feel that at this moment I only want to ask God to forgive us, to forgive our little faith, to forgive our weakness, to forgive us because we are not worthy to keep the great blessing of the Orthodox faith.
In the fuller video, it could be seen how Fr. Fanourios returned to the altar, brought the chalice out onto the ambo and became choked up as he pronounced, “In the fear of God, with faith and love draw near,” and then immediately returned into the altar.