Do Coronavirus Restrictions Imposed by Ireland’s Catholic Church Apply to Georgian Orthodox Church?

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Reading Time: 3 minutes


On March 7, a pro-Kremlin online edition News Front Georgia released an article headlined “Instead of intensified prayers… or how not to resemble the West!” According to the article, Ireland’s Catholic Church has imposed restrictions on physical contacts between representatives of religious confessions due to coronavirus outbreak; in addition, a recommendation has been issued to refrain from Holy Communion, the partaking of wine soaked in bread from the same chalice. News Front Georgia is manipulating with the fact, claiming that following European integration, the same regulations will allegedly apply to Georgia as well. News Front slams the recommendation on using disposable spoons for Holy Communion as Western propaganda, noting that the issue concerns artificial restrictions rather than healthcare.

News Front: “The Catholic Church in Ireland has imposed restrictions on physical contacts between the clerics and the parish to prevent the spread of coronavirus… Now, some of our readers will say that it does not concern the Orthodox people and we have nothing to do with it. But no, such “regulations” will also apply to us if we “integrate” into godless Europe more than needed – especially as they have already taken some measures and started to propagandize the use of disposable spoons for Holy Communion through mass media.”

News Front’s statement as if the regulations imposed by Ireland’s Catholic Church will become compulsory for Georgia following the country’s European integration is a groundless manipulation. The church in Ireland, which is a secular state, is an independent institution and it has nothing to do with common government/EU policy. In addition, the State only issues guidelines on church services and religious traditions, whereas religious institutions have imposed certain restrictions themselves. 

As coronavirus continues to spread, besides the Catholic Church in Ireland, other religious institutions around the world are also taking necessary measures to prevent the virus spread, modifying their practices and adjusting services. Since coronavirus spreads via respiratory droplet transmission, to avoid certain risks, Christian churches, mosques and synagogues have issued guidelines for clerics and worshippers, changing the rules for communion and offering mass online. For example, the Bethlehem Church identified by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus Christ was closed down. The Vatican announced that the Pope’s weekly audience will also be via video link, and all public participation in his weekday private mass has been canceled through March 15. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has closed several temples and limited or temporarily suspended gatherings in Hong Kong, Mongolia, South Korea, Japan and Seattle.

In secular states, where independent religious institutions develop restrictions themselves, the recommendations issued by governments to prevent the spread of coronavirus do not apply to religious traditions and church conduct rules. But due to increased threats, European countries are tightening rules and prohibiting public gatherings. Public gatherings have already been prohibited in France and Italy; the issue has been put on agenda in Germany and the United Kingdom. Ban on public gatherings involves various events, including carnivals, concerts and religious gatherings. The ban is not targeting the church specifically.

Why are restrictions imposed on public gatherings and liturgies?

Since coronavirus spreads via respiratory droplet transmission, church gatherings, touching icons and Holy Communion, the partaking of wine soaked in bread from the same chalice, contain the risks of virus transmission.

In South Korea, initial cases of the spread of coronavirus are related precisely to the church. 90 people who worshipped at one church in Daegu showed symptoms and dozens of new cases were confirmed. The church had been attended by a 61-year-old woman who tested positive. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 63.5% of all confirmed cases in the country are related to the Shincheonji church in Daegu.

Several hundred people have been ordered to self-quarantine after Reverend Timothy Cole of Christ Church Episcopal in Georgetown was confirmed as the city’s first coronavirus patient. According to Independent, over 500 people were impacted and had interactions with Reverend Cole, which may have included giving communion and shaking hands. City officials have urged all worshippers who visited the church either on 24 February or between 28 February and 3 March to self-quarantine themselves for two weeks from the last time they have visited the church.

Greece’s Orthodox Church said that Holy Communion would continue despite the coronavirus outbreak. Neither does the Georgian Orthodox Church plan to change its practice of Holy Communion so far.


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