Greece's archbishop hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms

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FILE - In this May 10, 2018, file photo, Greece's Orthodox Church Archbishop Ieronymos poses during the visit of Britain's Prince Charles in Athens. The head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos, has been hospitalized after being diagnosed with COVID-19, a leading Athens hospital said Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

ATHENS – The head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos, has been hospitalized after being diagnosed with COVID-19, the Archdiocese of Athens announced Thursday.

The 82-year-old archbishop was hospitalized in an augmented care unit of Athens' Evangelismos Hospital, the hospital said. The Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios, is also being treated for COVID-19 in Evangelismos since being airlifted to Greece last week.

The Archdiocese said Ieronymos had “mild symptoms of the coronavirus,” and was admitted to hospital following the recommendations of his doctors.

Shortly before being admitted, Ieronymos told his close associates that he was participating personally “in the ordeal that concerns thousands of our brothers in our country and millions throughout the world," according to the Archdiocese.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas expressed the government’s wishes for speedy recovery to Ieronymos. The archbishop had met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday, but Petsas said both men had undergone a coronavirus test before the meeting and the results had been negative.

Petsas said there was no need for the prime minister to self-isolate as a precaution as he had also tested negative before his trip to the United Arab Emirates earlier this week.

The recent death of a senior clergyman in the Greek Orthodox Church has revived a debate over the safety of receiving communion during the pandemic, as a shared spoon is used for the whole congregation.

The church insists there can be no danger of transmission as communion is the blood and body of Christ and therefore cannot transmit any disease. It says it has complied with all public safety restrictions.