“It was Orthodoxy that preserved Hellenism through the dark centuries; but without the moral
force of Hellenism Orthodoxy itself might have withered”.
The Great Church in Captivity by Steven Runciman
“The archbishop should not participate in the surrendering of a city… I repeat that it is the task
of the Archbishop to liberate not enslave (a city)”.
Archbishop Chrysanthos of Athens refusing to join Greek politicians in surrendering
Athens to the Germans quote cited from
“The Church of Greece Under Axis occupation” by Panteleymon Anastasakis
Hellenism and Orthodoxy
Theodore G. Karakostas
There is an undemocratic and morally unjustified attack on the Orthodox Church of Greece by some officials.
Former education Minister Nikos Filis had the audacity to question the role of the Church of Greece during the wartime
occupation by the Nazis. The above quote from Archbishop Chrysanthos of Athens speaks of the Church of Greece’s
early and enthusiastic anti-Nazi stance during the war. In fact Chrysanthos had previously served as Metropolitan of
Trebizond during the years of the pontian Greek genocide and was a vociferous enemy of the Turks who travelled widely
to the west to advocate on behalf of his flock under the Turks.
Archbishop Chrysanthos was removed by the Germans because of his refusal to swear in the collaborationist government.
His successor was the legendary Archbishop Damaskinos. Damaskinos championed the plight of the Greek people working
fervently to alleviate their misery and played the role of the Angel to the demonic SS General Stroop. According to the
International Raoul Wallenberg foundation the protest of the Archbishop to the Nazi deportation of Greek Jews “is unique as
no similar document to the protest against the Nazis during World War II has come to light in any other European country”.
Archbishop Damaskinos, Metropolitan Chrysostom of Zakynthos, Metropolitan Ioakeim of Volos, and Metropolitan Gennadios
of Thessaloniki have been recognized by the Yad Vashem of Jerusalem as “righteous among the nations” for the assistance
they provided to Greek Jews under the occupation. In addition, the Israeli President Shimon Peres has stated that his
father who served in the British Army in Greece during the war was kept hidden by Greek Orthodox Monks. SS General
Stroop threatened to shoot the Archbishop who responded by saying that the Bishops of Greece are traditionally hanged,
and not shot.
One of the most intriguing points made in the book cited above by Panteleymon Anastasakis is that with the collapse of
the Government during the war, it was the Church that filled the vacuum and provided relief to the Greek people and where
possible tried to intercede with the Germans to improve conditions. This is a similar role played by the Church during the
centuries of Ottoman occupation of Greece. Under the Ottoman Empire, The Church represented the people and preserved
the language, national consciousness, and faith of the Greek nation. Without the Church, the Greeks would have been
converted to Islam.
The Greek War of Independence was begun by Archbishop Germanos of Patras who raised the standard of revolt. Ecumenical
Patriarch Gregory V who had previously known about the Revolution but kept silence was executed on Easter Sunday. Gregory
V’s official condemnation of the revolution was pretense as a means of saving the Greeks of Constantinople from wholesale
slaughter. Archbishop of Cyprus Kyprianos was executed in September 1821 for supporting the Revolution. In September 22,
Saint Chrysostom, last Archbishop of Smyrna sacrificed his own life and remained with his flock when Mustafa Kemal’s
Army entered the City and slaughtered all Christians.
In 2000, the late and beloved Archbishop Christodoulos called the Greek faithful to rally against the government of Prime Minister
Simitis. The protests of the Archbishop were not politically motivated or partisan. They were a defense of the Church and of the
national identity of the Greek people. It is my opinion that efforts to secularize Greece are an effort to erase Greece’s glorious
Byzantine past. For eleven centuries, Greece’s Capital was in Constantinople and for many of those centuries the Queen of
the Cities was the center of the world. The glorious Empire of New Rome (Byzantium) was destroyed with the coming of the
Crusades and the destruction of Constantinople by the Frankish barbarians.
The Greek Orthodox Church represents the history of the Greek nation and is the enemy of all foreign tyrants from the Ottomans
to the Nazis. During the economic crisis, it has been the Church once again that has been providing food and shelter not only for
the Greek people, but for the refugees from the Middle East as well. Church-State relations in Greece should not be changed
unless it is with the consent of the Greek people. For too long, Greece has been subject to foreign pressure to conform and to
be more European even at the expense of Greek national rights and sovereignty.
In a book entitled “The Orthodox Church and Independent Greece 1821-1852” Charles Frazee examined the assault on the
Greek Church by the Great powers. With the establishment of Roman Catholic King Otho and his German advisers on Greece,
four hundred Monasteries were closed. Seventy two Churches in Athens were demolished (considered ugly by the Germans)
and many were rebuilt in a Protestant style ignoring the theological significance of Byzantine Church architecture, and the
Church was taken forcibly from the omophorion of the Mother Church of Constantinople without the latter’s approval.
These actions were taken in large part to divide the Greeks from Orthodox Russia.
There arose during the nineteenth century a heroic Monk named Papoulakos who protested the injustices against the Church and
who preached for the freedom of Greece. It is from this tradition that Archbishops such as Damaskinos and Christodoulos have
come. One of course must mention Archbishop Spyridon of Athens who in September 1955 defied the Greek government and the
American and British governments by taking to Greek radio to condemn the anti Greek pogroms in Constantinople and subsequently
denouncing the Western powers for refusing to condemn Turkish aggression and brutality.
The present Education Minister of Greece Constantinos Gavroglou has begun to provoke the Church by assigning inappropriate
materials to be taught to Greek students. This recalls one of the sayings of the Saint Cosmas Aitalos who wrote that, “Things
will come out of the schools that your mind does not even imagine”. (From Modern Orthodox Saints by Constantine Cavarnos).
The Greeks received the faith from Saint Paul according to the Acts of the Apostles. Furthermore, Saint Andrew the Apostle was
martyred in Patras, and Saint John the theologian received the Revelation on the island of Patmos.
Greece continues to produce Saints as can be seen by the glorification of Elders Paisios and Porphyrios of the Holy Mountain.
As of this writing, the economic crisis in Greece continues. Turkey is provoking conflict with Greece in the Aegean Sea, and a
settlement is being prepared for the betrayal of Cyprus. It is indicative of the lack of vision among Greek officials that they are
choosing to attack the Church rather than to defend the honor and sovereignty of Greece. On my last trip to Athens, I was
disturbed to encounter a notorious anti-Christian cult that has evidently established itself to exploit the people of Greece in their