Church bells across Georgia peeled at noon on Sunday (15 March) as a sign of unity among the faithful in the face of the Coronavirus threat.
The Georgian Orthodox Church over the last days appeared to be struggling in the way it deals with the threat of the virus, with controversy over the use of the communal cup when the faithful receive the sacrament during mass. Most religious denominations, including the Catholic Church, have stopped using the communal cup since it is considered a high risk for transmitting the virus. In the very traditional Georgian Orthodox Church the debate has been intense, and the government has tried not to intervene directly but to encourage the Church to make the right sensible decision.
According to Georgian media reports not all Churches in Georgia have taken the same approach. In some Churches the communal cup was still available, but other forms for receiving the sacrament such as spoons or disposable cups, were also used. It was left to the parisheners to make a choice. In other Churches, such as in the Cathedral in Poti, only disposable cups were used.
The Archbishop of Poti, Archbishop Grigol said that until the leaders of the Church gather to take a decision together different congregations are taking decisions locally "in a way that is beneficial to our congregation, which will not damage their faith and distort the church in any way. We will make a decision locally before we gather as senior clergy to draw conclusions about what we are dealing with, and how the church will act. The church has been tested many times before, and it is necessary to refrain from emotional judgment, because a reasonable response is always necessary".
In other Cathedrals and Churches Archbishops and Bishoips called for unity amongst the people, and referred to a message issued earlier by the Catholicos Patriarch Ilya II.
photo: Archbishop Grigol of Poti speaking to parishioners outside Poti cathedral after Sunday Mass on 15 March 2020 during which the faithful received the sacrament through disposable cups because of the Coronavirus (picture courtesy of Inter Press News, Tbilisi)
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