Two days ago, we reported that the Greek Orthodox parishes in Toronto were barred by city authorities from distributing Holy Communion to the faithful in accordance with city guidelines regarding COVID-19. The article featured a priest saying this comment:
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.
What do you think this priest might say to the news that the ban order was instigated by the laity? By none less than the very powerful Greek Community of Toronto, which apparently considers Orthodox Christianity merely a “decoration of Greek culture”, as stated below on their website:
The church is an important social formation that has contributed significantly to the successful adjustment of Greek immigrants into Canadian society. By serving the spiritual needs of Greek Canadians, the church has provided a sense of belonging, strength and cohesion and facilitated the maintenance and transmission of Hellenic history, roots and values for the future development of our descendants.
OrthoChristian.com picked up this news and they reported on it at length in their article. We refer to their article for much of this one’s basis of analysis:
Yesterday,OrthoChristian reported that, the city of Toronto banned Holy Communion in its “COVID-19 Guidance for Places of Worship” issued on June 20, based on the recommendation of the Ontario Ministry of Health.
This ban was communicated to priests of the Greek Metropolis of Toronto in the evening of Saturday, July 4, as Fr. Fanourios Pappas of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Toronto emotionally told his flock that Sunday.
However, letters published by the Greek Community of Toronto (GCT), a charitable organization that owns and operates four churches in Toronto, testify that the ban was instigated by the organization and parishioners of the churches themselves…
By some people’s account this would be considered a good thing, that the desire to enforce the ban was not “brought down from on high” but “desired by the laity themselves.” But there is a darker side to this.
The statement from the Greek Community of Toronto noted earlier, and the fact that this community actually owns four churches in Toronto suggest strongly that the attitude of the Greek Community is not religious, but secular. For them, the Church is merely an accoutrement of Greek culture, like a Greek restaurant or a Greek concert event might be. It is part of being Greek to have the Greek Orthodox Church. And besides, we pay the priests and we donate a lot of money to the Metropolitan and the Archdiocese, so we are supporting them. They need to obey us!
And the Archdiocese does it. Not only did they obey the wishes of the community for these four parishes the GCT owns and operates, but look what else happened. From OrthoChristian:
…[I]n a letter to Metropolitan Sotirios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto of the Patriarchate of Constantinople dated July 3, Andonis Artemakis, President of the GCT, reports that a public health inspector visited St. Demetrios’ Church, one of the four owned by the GCT, “regarding a breach of the amended June 20, 2020 Covid-19 Guidance for places of worship.”
Artemakis also notes that the GCT was concerned that Holy Communion continued to be offered in the churches of the Metropolis despite the city’s requirements.
The GCT contacted Bishop-elect Alexander, who told them that he had spoken with representatives of the provincial medical officer’s office “and that they were OK with the communion continuing.” Thus, the GCT reminded the Bishop-elect “that the city is clearly stating otherwise.”
Artemakis then notes that the public health inspector visited the St. Demetrios Church “following up on a complaint by a patron about Father Konstantinos’ practices.” The inspector “clarified that patrons are obligated to keep social distancing and to refrain from kissing the priest’s hand or receive communion” and “strictly stated that these rules are mandatory until further notice and if the guidelines are not followed, fines will be issued.”
The GCT thus requests that Met. Sotirios give clear guidance to the priests of the four churches owned by the GCT to suspend giving Holy Communion.
The GCT also requests written confirmation that the priests will comply, otherwise the four churches will be shut down, Artemakis warns, and the Archdiocese will be held “liable for not adhering to all the health regulations issued by the City of Toronto and government officials.”
And in an amazing act of faithlessness the hierarchs comply; in fact, they completely capitulate:
The next day, the Metropolis sent instructions for priests to suspend offering Holy Communion to the faithful. The order went beyond the four churches owned by the GCT, as a video originally published on the Metropolis’ YouTube page showed Fr. Fanourios Pappas announcing the ban at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Toronto, which is not one of the churches operated by the GCT.
An SMS conversation posted by the GCT also indicates that the Metropolis’ ban extends to all of Ontario, not just the city of Toronto.
So, here it is. A group of so-called believers rejecting their God. This is not the first time I have seen this happen to Orthodox communities in America, but this is the most egregious example of such a community doing everything it can to destroy the faith rather than protect it.
One of the characteristics of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in the United States, and presumably Canada as well, is that it is quite wealthy contrasted with other Orthodox Christian jurisdictions there. The Russians are usually dirt poor, the American church (OCA) is also poor but trying to figure out how to support itself, and the Antiochian Orthodox are well supported by their members, who are generally more humble to the Church as the center of their life than are many wealthy Greeks.
The idea that a “charitable organization” owns and operates parishes and presumes that it can dictate terms for how a community that serves God should operate, in direct defiance of the God they say they serve, is an absolute travesty. Further, the capitulation of the Metropolis, in issuing the ban to all the parishes in Toronto and possibly all of Ontario (our earlier report rumored that this ban was issued to all Greek Orthodox parishes in Canada, something also not verified, but now we see the seeds of this story) suggests strongly that the religious authorities no longer believe in God, but they believe in the money coming from these wealthy and ignorant members of the “charitable foundation.”
This also serves as an indictment on the “congregational” model of Orthodox Church parish operations in the United States and Canada, because this kind of thing happens very often. All too often a parish is run by a council of people who are at best nominally faithful but who have a lot of money, and they hamstring the clergy they hire to serve “their church” to do what they want. The problem is not that laity own the church; the problem is that laity that are not deeply steeped in the faith are running the Church.
As to “but this is about stopping the spread of the coronavirus!” – a criticism I have personally received from atheists and some Orthodox Christians who say that this should be the major concern, there is this interesting story, which can also be followed on OrthoChristian (we may also write companion pieces for easy reference):
The leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church (the neighbor of Russia), Patriarch Ilia, categorically refused to allow any changes to his Church and its operations in that country during the outbreak of COVID-19 that had the rest of the world, even parts of Russia, in lockdown and with many Church closures or “restricted services”. Absolutely nothing changed in Georgia. Pascha was with its huge crowds, as well as Holy Week before it and yet, there was no epidemic in Georgia. In the nation as a whole the count is now 963 cases. Not 963,000. Nine hundred sixty-three.
As the coronavirus “issue” progresses, it becomes exceedingly clear that this virus is being absolutely used by leftists and anti-Christian activists to pursue their purposes. Whether or not this is a deliberate conspiracy is questionable. I have written elsewhere that I am personally very skeptical of “one-world” conspiracies and shadowy constructs that “they” are out to enslave us all. However, nothing has given more evidence that something like this either might have been true, or that at least, the utilization of the present crises is being used to some end that ostensibly leads to a great deal of control over huge populations. In particular, the act of banning Holy Communion – actual union with Christ – is nothing less than sinister when looked at honestly. Russia seems to have shaken the spectre of the virus off, and parts of the US have also apparently gotten wise to the game, as have Italy and some other European countries.
The giveaway – that Church attendance is “dangerous” but rioting and burning buildings and demonstrating for radical left causes is “of extreme importance” is enough to say at least that we have lost our way. The Greek Orthodox in Toronto may not all agree with their “charitable organization” but only time will tell if they will express that disagreement in any way.
Where there is no Christ, there is no peace. We have seen this before, and now we are seeing it again.
And poor Fr. Fanourios is one of the real believers, a kind man who has been brutally taken advantage of by the godless. I hope he takes action with his faithful to correct this in his own community.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.