Ban on Holy Communion in Greek Metropolis of Toronto instigated by Greek Community of Toronto organization

Toronto, July 8, 2020


Yesterday, OrthoChristian reported that, the city of Toronto banned Holy Communion in its “COVID-19 Guidance for Places of Worship” issued on June 20, based on the recommendation of the Ontario Ministry of Health.

This ban was communicated to priests of the Greek Metropolis of Toronto in the evening of Saturday, July 4, as Fr. Fanourios Pappas of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Toronto emotionally told his flock that Sunday.

However, letters published by the Greek Community of Toronto (GCT), a charitable organization that owns and operates four churches in Toronto, testify that the ban was instigated by the organization and parishioners of the churches themselves, while the city seemed to be laxer on enforcing the requirements.

In an email to Dr. Vinita Dubey dated July 3, Toronto’s Associate Medical Officer of Health, Nick Georgakopoulos, 1st Vice President and Treasurer of the GCT, reports that while the city’s guidance “clearly states that ‘ALL houses of worship must suspend all communion related activities, as advised by Ontario’s chief Medical Officer of Health,’” both the priests of the GCT’s four churches and the Archdiocese “have advised us that communion WILL indeed continue,” with the consent of the Chief Medical Officer of Ontario.

The GCT is confused by the contradictory approaches to “what appears to be a straightforward guidance,” Georgakopoulos writes, asking Dr. Dubey to clarify the situation.

Read the full email below:


And in a letter to Metropolitan Sotirios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto of the Patriarchate of Constantinople dated July 3, Andonis Artemakis, President of the GCT, reports that a public health inspector visited St. Demetrios’ Church, one of the four owned by the GCT, “regarding a breach of the amended June 20, 2020 Covid-19 Guidance for places of worship.”

Artemakis also notes that the GCT was concerned that Holy Communion continued to be offered in the churches of the Metropolis despite the city’s requirements.

The GCT contacted Bishop-elect Alexander, who told them that he had spoken with representatives of the provincial medical officer’s office “and that they were OK with the communion continuing.” Thus, the GCT reminded the Bishop-elect “that the city is clearly stating otherwise.”

Artemakis then notes that the public health inspector visited the St. Demetrios Church “following up on a complaint by a patron about Father Konstantinos’ practices.” The inspector “clarified that patrons are obligated to keep social distancing and to refrain from kissing the priest’s hand or receive communion” and “strictly stated that these rules are mandatory until further notice and if the guidelines are not followed, fines will be issued.”

The GCT thus requests that Met. Sotirios give clear guidance to the priests of the four churches owned by the GCT to suspend giving Holy Communion.

The GCT also requests written confirmation that the priests will comply, otherwise the four churches will be shut down, Artemakis warns, and the Archdiocese will be held “liable for not adhering to all the health regulations issued by the City of Toronto and government officials.”

Read the full letter below:


The next day, the Metropolis sent instructions for priests to suspend offering Holy Communion to the faithful. The order went beyond the four churches owned by the GCT, as a video originally published on the Metropolis’ YouTube page showed Fr. Fanourios Pappas announcing the ban at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Toronto, which is not one of the churches operated by the GCT.

An SMS conversation posted by the GCT also indicates that the Metropolis’ ban extends to all of Ontario, not just the city of Toronto.

While the GCT writes of itself that “the GCT and its members… are committed to providing an environment for Greek culture and heritage to flourish, thus enriching the unique social and cultural fabric within a vibrant and diverse Canada,” and that “The church is an important social formation that has contributed significantly to the successful adjustment of Greek immigrants into Canadian society,” the organization seems to have a turbulent history with the Metropolis.

In an article linked on the front page of the Metropolis’ website, the Metropolis responds to a statement of claim filed by the GCT in 2017, calling it “baseless and wholly without merit,” noting that this was not the first time the organization has made claims against the Church.

“The latest attempt by the GCT against our Metropolis is recognized by all for what it is: yet another desperate attempt to divert attention from the issues it faces and discredit our Metropolis,” the statement reads.

OrthoChristian was unable to confirm by time of publication of this article whether any other Orthodox jurisdictions represented in Toronto are adhering to the city’s published requirements.

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Nicholas7/17/2020 6:41 pm
Meeting in Toronto at the Greek Archdiocese to hopefully get real answers on Sunday 7/19: To that end, and as you are already aware, many of us will be paying a visit to our Archdiocese this coming Sunday. People will be arriving any time after 9:30 am to hear liturgy inside the small church (30% capacity) or pray outside the doors and the surrounding vicinity. We are going there to confess our faith in Christ and our support of the ONE SPOON – μια λαβιδα – through which we confess our belief that the Body and Blood of our Lord, the Supreme Sacrifice, is All Holy and incorruptible, and was, is and always shall be. Right now, his Eminence is telling us the government made him introduce the multiple spoons so that the churches do not close. The government is telling us they had nothing to do with it. Something does not match up. Therefore, we will visit our Holy Archdiocese first, and we will knock to see if it shall be opened unto us. This coming Sunday, as we arrive to our Holy Archdiocese, there will be masks and social distancing. There will be hymns and prayers. There will be respect and consideration. There will not be any microphones, or any stones. There will not be any screaming or yelling. His Eminence invited us to meet with him as one Christian family. And as one Christian family we will go in the hopes that His Eminence, our spiritual father in Canada, will come outside and, like a father, speak to us, listen to us, comfort us, pastor us, laugh and cry with us one person at a time, one family at time, and not from a distance on high or just through an encyclical. I pray that our “Q&A tour” will only take us as far as the doors of our Archdiocese. Otherwise, we will continue to search until the truth is found. I am confident that if Covid-19 does not uncover this truth, God certainly will. More Info:
Hal S.7/11/2020 1:12 am
I found a good Pacific Justice Institute article analyzing the July 1 California OSHA announcement that recommended against singing in church indoors. The PJI article looks closely at the OSHA letter and shows that it is only "guidance" or advice, not an actual order or law: ======================================== LETTER TO CALIFORNIA CLERGY July 3, 2020 OSHA Prohibition On Singing & Chanting (or “the day the music died”) Added by Debra Tash on July 8, 2020. ====================================== Based on the same reasoning, it looks to me like the Toronto "Guidance" could be interpreted similarly. At least, the Toronto "Guidance" letter is ambiguous on the point, because it headed it under an announcement of "guidance" and said to discontinue communion sharing "as advised" by the health officer. The health officer had not actually ordered an end to communion sharing, only "advised" on it. By this logic then, the Toronto letter could be interpreted as just "guidance" and "advice". This explains why the Orthodox in Toronto were initially reassured that the Toronto "guidance" was not actually a mandatory imposition of a law against sharing communion. But it looks like the Greek Community organization may have been trying to get the city to act in a way that would end communion sharing as if it had been actually banned.
A Greek of Constantinople.7/9/2020 8:46 pm
If "abraham" thinks living under jihadis makes one a better Christian, he is more than welcome to go to Syria, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and be oppressed, slaughtered, and used as a sex slave. But he will never do it. I encourage you to read about the revolution since they have so many interesting accounts, particularly the accounts on the siege of Tripolitsa (particularly August-September 1821) to get an understanding on "humbling", and "Gods wisdom". Read the accounts and grasp the fate of those muslims, jihadis, and their collaborators. How's about that for Gods judgement?
Hal S.7/8/2020 9:50 pm
Good article. It is worth noting a similar issue: that some corporate mass media sources have claimed that California's governor has banned singing in churches. So I downloaded the actual California Health Department document that the media sources reference, and the document actually puts the discussion in a section called "Considerations". It suggests that churches "consider" not singing because singing can increase flu transmission. The document does not actually ban singing. There is no actual ban on church singing. The problem is that if both media and church advocacy groups mistakenly think that the state has banned singing, then many churches could take it on themselves to ban singing even when there is no actual ban on it. This would be like the Ontario situation where the church there banned communion across the province even though there was a seemingly ambiguous ban limited to Toronto.
Abraham7/8/2020 9:37 pm
These are the descendants of martyrs. Imagine how much more evil they would be if Islam had never come and humbled them. For the first time in my life I can see the wisdom of God, in allowing the muslims to take over Christian lands. We were far better Christians under the yoke of Islam. These pathetic "Greeks" are a disgrace to Christianity, their nation and to humanity, which was created in the image and likeness of the God that they fight. God's judgment will first come to His own household. If the bishops would have excommunicated these people, they wouldn't have been able to fight Christ and His Church, and if the Bishops of the Church would have excommunicated P. Bartholomew when he fought the Church in Ukraine, this wouldn't have happened, but all the Patriarchs did nothing! God forgive them all!!
Theodoros 7/8/2020 6:57 pm
I am confused. How is it that a secular organization can "own" four Churches? There are no shortages of canonical and spiritual problems with this issue alone and without the intervention of the city of Toronto banning holy communion. Perhaps the Metropolis should prohibit its priests from serving in these churches and should also prohibit its faithful from attending them as well. What a mess.
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