Health-related religious rituals of the Greek Orthodox Church: their uptake and meanings

J Nurs Manag. 2012 Dec;20(8):1058-68. doi: 10.1111/jonm.12024.


Aim: To examine the uptake of religious rituals of the Greek Orthodox Church by relatives of patients in critical condition in Greece and to explore their symbolic representations and spiritual meanings.

Background: Patients and their relatives want to be treated with respect and be supported for their beliefs, practices, customs and rituals. However nurses may not be ready to meet the spiritual needs of relatives of patients, while the health-related religious beliefs, practices and rituals of the Greek Orthodox Christian denomination have not been explored.

Method: This study was part of a large study encompassing 19 interviews with 25 informants, relatives of patients in intensive care units of three large hospitals in Athens, Greece, between 2000 and 2005. In this paper data were derived from personal accounts of religious rituals given by six participants.

Results: Relatives used a series of religious rituals, namely blessed oil and holy water, use of relics of saints, holy icons, offering names for pleas and pilgrimage.

Conclusion: Through the rituals, relatives experience a sense of connectedness with the divine and use the sacred powers to promote healing of their patients.

Implications for nursing management: Nurse managers should recognize, respect and facilitate the expression of spirituality through the practice of religious rituals by patients and their relatives.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ceremonial Behavior*
  • Christianity*
  • Critical Illness / nursing*
  • Female
  • Greece
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Spirituality*