Temporary ban on Holy Communion in Toronto

Toronto Public Health (TPH) has issued revised COVID-19 guidelines that ban the offering of Holy Communion to the faithful.

The new guidelines state that suspended services include “Communion and other close contact activities.”

“Community faith leaders need to carefully consider how and when to re-establish in-person activities. There are many members who are older and/or have health conditions, which makes them more vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19. This guidance document reflects the need to protect everyone from COVID-19,” the guidance reads.

The revised guidelines also limit participation in services to no more than 30% of the capacity of the premises, to allow for physical distancing.

The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto released a video of Sunday’s Divine Liturgy on July 5 from the Church of St. Nicholas in Toronto, where Fr. Fanourios Pappas, emotionally announced the new bans imposed by the Canadian government.

“My brethren, today, I have a great sadness. Last night, we were told from our Archdiocese that the city of Toronto forbade Holy Communion for the area of Toronto, and it looks like the persecution of the Church continues. I have no words to express my disappointment and my sadness. And I feel that I cannot share with you today any sermon because I feel that I cannot talk about faith, about Christ. I feel that at this moment I only want to ask God to forgive us, to forgive our little faith, to forgive our weakness, to forgive us because we are not worthy to keep the great blessing of the Orthodox faith,” Fr. Fanourios stated.

“So, today no one will receive the Holy Communion, until further notice,” he concluded.

It is recalled that a few weeks ago, Archbishop Sotirios of Canada said that he would make no comments on Holy Communion without first obtaining instructions from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

UPDATE: An announcement was released by Archbishop Sotirios regarding the protocol for communion in accordance with public health advice.

The statement notes that Holy Communion should take place as described below:

  1. The celebrant (priest) will sanitize his hands before Holy Communion distribution.
  2. The celebrant (priest) must wear a mask while distributing Communion to the faithful.
  3. The celebrant (priest) will utilize multiple stainless steel spoons, that will be single use (one for every individual) when communing the people. This method eliminates (as per the directives of the goverments) the danger of using common utensils.
  4. Ushers will direct people to the priest to ensure physical distance at all times. Depending on the layout of the church, it may be necessary to distribute Holy Communion to one section at a time so that distance is maintained when people are both coming forward to receive and when they are returning to their seats.
  5. The communicants will continue to wear a mask as they line-up for Holy Communion, 2 meters (6 ft.) apart from others.
  6. The communicants will approach to receive, also wearing a face mask, and will momentarily remove mask to commune. Because the celebrant (priest) is still wearing a mask, this further mitigates the chance of infection and also any danger from the momentary breach of standard social distancing.
  7. Disposable paper napkins will be available for parishioners to take on their own if there is the need to wipe their mouths (they will be burned immediately after use).
  8. Following the Divine Liturgy, the stainless steel spoons will be disinfected using cleaners and then strong disinfectants according to Public Health of Ontario, Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings (https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/factsheet-covid19-environmental-cleaning.pdf?la=en)

*Update as of July 31, 2020