12 July 2015

Solidarity with Greeks (4):
Pray for Greece, Pray for Europe

Pray for the people of Greece, their political leaders, their churches and their church leaders ... candles in a church in Rethymnon in the Greek island of Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

While the present Greek crisis continues, I have decided each morning to suggest Tiny, Tickable, Achievable Targets as ways of expressing support for Greece and Greeks in the present crisis.

It began on Thursday [9 July 2015], when I posted a breakfast photograph on Facebook urging people to buy real Greek products, including Greek honey and Greek yoghurt, not Greek-style yoghurt. Buying Greek products helps Greek exports, puts money from euro economies back into Greece, and keeps Greek workers in jobs.”

On Friday morning [10 July 2015] I suggested picking a Greek football team to support as a gesture of solidarity. Yesterday, I suggested reading or re-reading the classics and re-discovering the foundations of European civilisation and culture.

These gestures may not change the agenda in Brussels, but you can make yourself and your family and friends feel more positive about Greece, and show solidarity in a humane way.

This Sunday morning, I am asking people to pray for Greece, for the Greek people, and for the political leaders of Greece, for President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, for the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipris, and for all poiticians.

Greece was the first nation in Europe to receive the Gospel (Acts 16-18), Greece is a land of the Bible, and the New Testament is written in Greek, with most of the Epistles written to Greek cities. Paul, Timothy, Titus, Apollos and Phoebe, all New Testament figures, were familiar with the same coastlines, mountain passes and ancient cities of Greece as we are today.

If you live near a Greek Orthodox Church, consider visiting it this morning, offering your solidarity with Greek people in exile, and praying for and with them.

Pray for the Church of Greece, of which 95 to 98% of the people are members. The constitutional status of the Orthodox Church acknowledges it as the “prevailing religion.”

The Church of Greece (Ἐκκλησία τῆς Ἑλλάδος) is confined canonically to the borders of Greece before the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, with the rest of Greece subject to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, although most of its dioceses are de facto administered as part of the Church of Greece for practical reasons.

Pray for Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece and the 81 dioceses, including the 36 dioceses in northern Greece and in the islands that are spiritually under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Pray for the Patriarch Bartholomeos, for Archbishop Irinaios (Athanasiadis) of Crete and the dioceses of the Church of Crete, for the dioceses in the Dodecanese, and for the Monastic Republic of Holy Mount Athos.

Saint Paul’s Church is in the very heart of Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Please pray too for the Anglican Church and the Anglican presence in Athens and throughout Greece.

Saint Paul’s Anglican Church is in the very heart of Athens, just a few minutes’ walk from the Plaka, the Acropolis, Syntagma Square and Parliament, and from the daily protests in the centre of Athens.

The church is a focus of worship, pastoral care and cultural activities not only for English-speaking people in Athens, but also for pilgrims following in the footsteps of Saint Paul, and for many visitors and tourists.

There has been an Anglican presence in Athens since early 1831 when Dr JH Hill, an American philanthropist and founder of a school, gathered Anglicans in his home for services. In 1836 the Revd HD Leeves arrived in Athens in 1836, and they helped secure a site for a church close to the Acropolis and 15 minutes' walk from the Areopagus, where the Apostle Paul addressed the Athenians (Acts 17: 22).

Saint Paul’s Church was consecrated on Palm Sunday 1843, and among those commemorated in the monuments and windows is Sir Richard Church, the Irish-born general who became commander-in-chief of the Greek army during the Greek War of Independence.

There is another Anglican community in northern Athens. Saint Peter’s Anglican Church uses Saint Catherine’s British School in Lycovrisi.

The Anglican Church in Athens is part of the “Church in the Street” ecumenical project which distributes 1,500 meals each day to homeless people and immigrants. But a report in the Church Times last week (3 July 2015) highlights how churches and charities in Greece are unable to help relieve the suffering of Greek people as the financial crisis escalates, because their own bank accounts have been frozen.

The Senior Chaplain of St Paul’s, Athens, Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, said that the situation was “incredibly worrying. Everyone is full of anxiety and fear … Charities and churches who work with the elderly and the poor are struggling to find money themselves. Our own bank accounts have been frozen.

“There is nothing here, no money coming in – we have been completely cut off. We can’t do much at all to support those in financial hardship.”

The Anglican Chaplaincy in Athens has particularly strong relations with the Greek Orthodox Church. The Senior Chaplain is the personal representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece.

Saint Paul’s Church in Athens and Holy Trinity Church in Corfu are the “hub” churches for a total of 11 Anglican congregation in Greece.

The other Anglican churches in Greece include: Holy Trinity Church, Kerkyra (Corfu); the Church of St. Thomas, the Apostle, Kefalas, Apokoronou, Chania (Crete); the Anglican Church in Thessaloniki, which meets in the German Evangelical Church; Saint Andrew’s Anglican Church, close to the central bus station on Agiou Andreou Street in Patras; and the Anglican Church in Nafplion, which meets in the Roman Catholic Church.

In his interview with the Church Times, Canon Bradshaw said that, although he and his wife could leave for Britain, he would not go. “It would be like the captain leaving the sinking ship. I am here to represent the Archbishop of Canterbury. He has written this week to the Archbishop of Athens to express his concern at the situation.”

He asked for prayer. “I would ask people to pray that wisdom may prevail in Brussels and in Greece. I know we have many supporters who will want to help us to help those who are suffering, when the banks are open again. But will they open again? And, if they do, will they be empty?”

Pray for Greece – Pray for Europe is an open group on Facebook formed last Friday

Pray for Greece – Pray for Europe is an open group on Facebook formed to support the open letter published on Friday [10 July 2015] by a cross-section of Greek Orthodox theologians:

A Christian Call in a Time of Crisis in Europe

If one member suffers, all suffer together

(1 Corinthians 12:26)

Respected ecumenical friends and partners in Europe,

Dear, sisters and brothers in Christ,

In the spirit of the contemporary inter-Christian cooperation, churches have contributed to the development and establishment of a wider ecumenical spirit of reconciliation and collaboration – extremely necessary and significant for both Europe and the world. This spirit was particularly needed in challenging times, such as following the end of the World War ΙΙ and the rise of the divisive climate of the Cold War between the East and West. Since then, churches have worked to support a progressive, and sometimes even a radical Christian spiritual approach in addressing social, political, economic and environmental issues. In this spirit, as Christians and responsible citizens, we call the European churches, ecumenical organizations, religious institutions and various Christian movements in Europe to respond to our call to ensure a secure future of our common home by taking immediate actions.

The Greek crisis is a European crisis. Therefore we believe that only at the European level foundations for a sustainable and definitive solution to this problematic, injurious and particularly dangerous situation can occur. We encourage both the Greek government and the governments of the member states of the European Union to exhaust any margin of dialogue to reach an immediate agreement, ensuring equal participation of Greece in the Common Monetary Union, and leading up to a national economic recovery.

We recognize that the current adverse situation in our country is also relevant to the crucial issues related with the growth and development of particular political, economic and social systems during the political changeover, following the re-establishment of Democracy in 1974. Furthermore, we recognize that neither have we (as citizens and Orthodox Christians) risen to the occasion nor have done the self- reflection required. Today we are ready to recognize errors in our political and economic system and we take responsibility for our failures to overcome these unhealthy situations. However, we are concerned about the policies proposed by our partners, focused apparently on the need for reforms, without taking into consideration the systemic causes of the crisis, the debt crisis and the need to address the serious humanitarian consequences of the ineffective neoliberal policies applied in the recent years.

Despite our different political affiliations and interpretation of effective solutions, we all recognize that the position of Greece remains within the European family; a position that represents the overwhelming majority of Greek citizens. We call for actions that can ensure European identity of our country based on the principles of democracy, solidarity, social justice, dignity, mutual respect and implementation of the European principles. Based on these cornerstones of unity, cooperation and common progress of the European people, we invite you to work together in order to safeguard these values, because we recognize in these foundational principles common cultural, religious and humanistic inheritance of Europe. This inheritance must be preserved at all costs against powers that put our peaceful common path at serious risk; powers that impose the deification of the markets and aim to revive sad moments of the history of our continent.

Within this context, we welcome supportive statements by religious leaders and organizations. We appreciate especially comments of solidarity from His Holiness Pope Francis, pastoral letter of the distinguished members of the Presidium of the Conference of European Churches and the public interventions from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. We call upon all Christians of Europe, in a spirit of prayer and prophetic witness (martyria), to remind the European family, the greatest value of human beings against the value of profit. We are experiencing an unfortunate revival of division and intense polarization across Europe, which taints the process of making political choices, traumatizes coexistence of our nations and stigmatizes people's hearts. In the midst of this dark reality, we firmly believe that churches of Europe must – and are able to – become bridges of cooperation and dialogue, as post-war history has proven. We are part of our common spiritual and cultural heritage and consequently co-responsible for our common future.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Vasileiadis Petros,
Professor Emeritus of the Theological School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,
President of the Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies
“Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou”

Saroglou Vassilis,
Professor of psychology at the Université catholique de Louvain,
President of the Académie internationale des sciences religieuses

Zaxaropoulos Nikos Gr.,
Deputy Dean, Professor of Theology, Head of the Master’s Programme in Theology, Neapolis University in Cyprus

Stamoulis Chrysostomos,
Professor of the Theological School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,
Head of the School of Theology

Kalaitzidis Pantelis,
Director, Volos Academy for Theological Studies, Volos, Greece

Zorbas Konstantinos,
Dr. of Theology and Sociology

Papageorgiou Niki,
Associate Professor of Theology at the Theological School,
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Stathokosta Vassiliki,
Assistant Professor of Theology at the Faculty of Theology,
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Tsompanidis Stylianos,
Associate Professor of Theology at the Theological School,
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Dimitrios Moschos,
Assistant Professor of Theology at the Faculty of Theology,
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Kasselouri-Hatzivassiliadi Eleni,
Lecturer at the Hellenic Open University

Nikiforos Dimitrios,
M.Th., Secretary General of the Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies
“Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou”

Papathanasiou Athanasios N.,
Dr. of Theology, Lecturer at the Hellenic Open University

Pekridou Katerina,
ThM, Research Associate,
Institute for Missiology & the Study of Theologies beyond Europe,
Catholic Faculty of Theology, WWU-Münster

Mitralexis Sotiris,
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy (Bogazici University),
Dr. of Philosophy (FUBerlin)

Skliris Dionysios,
Theologian, Philologist (Paris)

Papachristou Nikos-Giorgos,
Religious editor / Amen.gr
Student at the School of Social Sciences of the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome with a scholarship of the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity

Kosmidis Nikos,
Former World Council of Churches youth commissioner,
Political and ecumenical activist

Arkadi Monastery in the mountains above Rethymnon in Crete is a symbol of Greek pride and identity (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

No comments: