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Georgian Church refuses to ban gatherings amid pandemic

By Anastasia Sokhadze
Thursday, March 19
The Georgian Orthodox Church refuses to apply any temporary changes to the rules of conducting religious services. Using a common spoon while taking the sacrament has been the concern of many members of the public before the virus as well but the topic has intensified since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Religious institutions around the world are following the advice and demands of the medical experts, making temporary changes to the worship services to help prevent the spreading of the virus.

Even though the Georgian government has already banned public gatherings, it has not restricted religious gatherings, leaving the decision to the church leaders.

People in defence of keeping the service unchanged claim that “the wine used for sacrament consists of alcohol, and is capable of killing all harmful bacteria and viruses.”They also say that the wine used for rituals has metaphysical powers, making it impossible to spread the disease.

The medical experts state that the concentration of alcohol in the drink should be 60-80% to overcome the viral particles, which, the wine, 12%, used for sacrament does not contain.

Even though some churchgoers use their own cups, Georgian priests continue to drink with a common spoon. It is noteworthy that despite the Georgian Orthodox Church's argument about the heavenly powers of wine, the Patriarchate announced on March 14th that it had decided to disinfect the icons and crosses that believers kiss as an act of worship.

The Romanian Orthodox Church, among many other Churches around the world, has announced special measures to overcome the coronavirus. Romanian church-goers were advised that ‘they may ask the priest for the right to communion with their own spoon.’ The Greek doctors' union has also intervened in the dispute over the spoon. It warns believers that state bans should all be obeyed regardless of ‘religious, ritual or metaphysical reasons.’

Eucharist, or communion, is one of the most important rituals of both Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the Catholic Church. During the ceremony, the priest blesses the bread and wine and distributes it to the congregation.

During most of the liturgies in the Catholic Church, believers drink wine from a common bar.