Bishops in Germany issue statement on Eucharist during COVID

Cologne, July 6, 2021

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At its most recent session in Cologne on June 23, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of Germany issued a statement on “The Holy Eucharist During the Corona Crisis.”

The meeting was held at the headquarters of the Antiochian Orthodox Metropolis of Germany and Central Europe, with the participation of representatives of the Antiochian, Serbian, Romanian, and Greek Churches.

The statement, published on the Assembly’s Facebook page, begins by emphasizing that the crisis affects Church life just as much as the economic and social life, with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and other services being “severely restricted and even endangered.”

Thus, the Assembly “would like to point out the unbroken importance of the Eucharist and the Eucharistic community of the faithful for Church life and to point out possibilities that can help their communities and faithful to deal with the current situation.”

The Eucharist is central to and has many meanings for Church life, the bishops write. Holy Communion is understood as both a meal, and more deeply, a Mystery, serving for both the communion of the Holy Spirit unto eternal life and the building up of communion between Christians themselves. Thus, the Eucharist preserves and manifests the unity of the Church.

The bishops also remind that the Eucharist is the central act of thanksgiving for Orthodox Christians, and act of remembrance, manifesting Christ’s very presence.

The Assembly then points to “some aspects of responsible action from a Christian point of view.” Christians are called to love their neighbor, which “is manifested in the ministry to the sick, in prayer for the deceased, in the comfort of the suffering and the bereaved, and in concern for the health of all, including through the observance of hygiene measures. Participation in Christ in the Eucharist is so central to us that we must do everything we can to do justice to it as well as to the health and integrity of our sisters and brothers.”

As for the legal situation, the bishops emphasize the right of religious freedom, but also note that religious rights can be “partially and temporarily restricted” in the event of an “infection of national significance.” The cooperation of Church and state is not in any way un-Orthodox, the bishops write, but they also expect the state to enact reasonable measures, in dialogue with religious authorities.

Concerning the public perception of the Orthodox Church, the Assembly states that “The eternal responsibility of the Orthodox Bishops, but also the responsibility of each individual Orthodox Christian, is, among other things, to ensure that the Orthodox Church and its faithful do their part for the good of society.”

The Church can employ both strictness and leniency (akrivia and economia) in its pastoral mission of leading people to salvation. “Through this principle, exceptions to the rule can and may be made—on the basis of the Gospel and the tradition of the Church—if this is necessary according to the respective circumstances or contributes to the salvation of the individual person,” the Assembly writes.

While the theology of the Eucharist can never change, the means of distributing can and has changed, the bishops write. For instance, while frequent Communion is the norm today, this has certainly not always been the case, as the Assembly points out. Likewise, communing with a spoon has not always been the case, and thus “it would be inappropriate to dogmatize the use of the spoon,” the German bishops believe.

“On the other hand, this practice of communion has proven itself in the Orthodox Church for almost a thousand years,” they add.

The present pandemic has forced hierarchs to consider alternative forms of communing the faithful. Any decision must be guided by the tradition of and decisions of the Holy Synod of the respective Local Church, as well as the requirements of local authorities.

Given the pandemic situation and the legal requirements, the bishops call on people not to judge and condemn the decisions of bishops made according to economia.

In conclusion, the Assembly notes that all forms of health are important, though “the present crisis is particularly painful because the health of the body often seems to be imposed at the expense of other important ‘health’ aspects, such as spiritual or mental health.”

Thus, the hierarchs call on all to pray for those who are sick and those who have already reposed, and for all people to experience God’s wisdom and strength in this trying situation.

Finally, the Assembly writes:

Man remains in life as in death related to Christ, our Lord and Master. So let us love God and each other more these days, let us recognize the value of the things we have taken for granted in our lives. To be able to go to the Liturgy every week, to receive the precious gifts and to see members of our Church, with whom we form the one Body of Christ, has always been important to us; but only now, when we can no longer do this without hindrance, do we realize the true value of the Liturgy.

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sherlock_holmes7/8/2021 10:57 am
Motto:"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever !"...@ JJ...Are we swallowing the camel when crossing ourselves in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit or in the front of the holy icons or when baptizing the babies ?
JJ7/7/2021 4:54 pm
The situation in Europe is absolutely different to the USA and the UK. Read about it in German, or French at least before you condemn the European position. Few Americans have any idea about the position of Orthodox Christians in Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland and in order to be au fait with the situation one should at least read some of the debate which has taken place in other languages - Russian (for the ROCOR in Europe), German, Romanian, French, Greek, Arabic (in the Antiochian community), Serbian, Macedonian, and other Orthodox communities. The members of these communities are not monolingual, and come from a multitude of different Orthodox traditions.
JJ7/7/2021 4:41 pm
@ sherlock_holmes Sherlock Holmes was a character created by Conan Doyle. Doyle was a staunch supporter of compulsory vaccination and wrote several articles advocating the practice and denouncing the views of anti-vaccinators. Doyle declared himself to be a spiritualist, and in 1887 (on 26 January), he was initiated as a Freemason at the Phoenix Lodge No. 257 in Southsea. Why choose such a nickname for an Orthodox Website? As for tradition - the Pharisees who rejected healing on the Sabbath (because it went against tradition); were accused of straining at gnats and swallowing camels.
OrthoBro7/7/2021 8:16 am
Very sneaky wording by these Bishops. If one pays attention to the connection they are making. They mention that communion was originally not done via a spoon, and this is indeed true and arguably there is nothing wrong with communing in another physical way. However, they also connect that truth with another historical reality that frequent communion was not always the case. The difference here is that frequent communion IS the correct and ORIGINAL way, while infrequent communion was a MISTAKE and DEPARTURE from what the Apostles said we must do. They are priming us for less communion and will use Church “history” as proof while not giving context! They will then use historical examples of different modes of communing (spoon/no spoon) as a way to validate their heretical idea of infrequent communion. Very sneaky wording! Lord have mercy.
Utrecht7/7/2021 7:27 am
Achbishop Averky: And to this end we must first of all understand and never forget: that at the present time not everything that bears the most holy and most dear name of Orthodoxy really is Orthodoxy. There now also exists pseudo-Orthodoxy, which we must fear and from which we must flee as from fire; that true Orthodoxy is only that which does not accept and does not permit in anything, either in teaching or in church practices, any sort of innovations opposed to the Word of God and the decrees of the Universal Church; that true Orthodoxy does not bless and does not indulge modern fashion-the morality and customs of the modern, corrupt world, which, even more than in Apostolic times, is lying in evil, for it is a world which has abandoned God; that true Orthodoxy considers only pleasing God and saving souls, not arrangements for temporary, earthly happiness, a career, and earthly advantages and possessions; that true Orthodoxy is spiritual, not natural and carnal, not attached to the earth-to earthly feelings and experiences. Where are the quotes of modern, and contemporary Saints in these decisions?
sherlock_holmes7/6/2021 10:11 pm
Motto: "It looks like a thousand years is not enough to prove a reality ! " It is in vogue now that everybody is at least an asymptomatic so he might infect his neighbor and live with his sin for the rest of his life. After opening the Pandora's box, what is going to happen to the Holy Communion ?! Multi-spooning for ever ?! Very good though the conclusion of the Assembly !
Lana Ivanova7/6/2021 8:08 pm
What hypocrites!!!
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