Worshippers attending Sunday service at a Greek Orthodox church have been slammed after video emerged of them sipping wine from the same spoon amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Live TV footage taken at Saint Gregory Palamas Holy Metropolitan Church in Thessaloniki shows people queuing up to the priest in a communion service during mass yesterday.
It is claimed that the holy cup "is blessed and cannot carry disease".
The priest is seen dipping a spoon into a chalice of wine and placing it into the mouths of parishioners.
Despite COVID-19 easily being transmitted through contact with infected substances – like a spoon – the church claims "no disease or illness can exist in holy communion, which we believe is the body and blood of Christ".
Archbishop Leronymos said on Friday to urge the worshippers to display "a spirit of responsibility", saying their faith would not be in doubt if they didn’t go to church, according to Greek Reporter.
He also asked the public to follow Health Ministry hygiene guidelines.
The Greek government has imposed bans on mass gatherings, cafes, bars, gyms and playgrounds, as well as entry checks at supermarkets from Monday to avoid overcrowding.
Viewers called the worshippers "stupid" and feared that the virus has spread among them.
One said: "They did not learn from the 'pilgrims' to the Holy Land that carried death. Now they will expand the disaster…"
Another one believed God is omnipresent and wrote: "Close churches for the world is not a religious right it's a matter of survival. Go home, God is everywhere."
A third blamed the church and commented: "The church is the state in Greece. They make command. What they like to do! And they make money as civil servants."
The Greek Orthodox Church's governing body, the Holy Synod, will hold an emergency meeting today to discuss attendance.
A similar event recently happened in Australia and Steven Scoutas, a spokesperson for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, said anyone showing signs of illness should stay away from church gatherings.
He told ABC News: "But once we decide to go to church, we believe there is absolutely no possibility of contracting disease from the holy cup.
"We believe that no disease or illness can exist in holy communion, which we believe is the body and blood of Christ."
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