Welcome to another installment of “T’is a miracle! Greek-Orthodox style”: Bogus and exposed miracles from our Greek-Orthodox side of the fence. Οι Έλληνες αναγνώστες μπορείτε να ενημερωθείτε απ’ευθείας για αυτό το φρέσκο μιράκολο από αυτή τη σελίδα στο Φατσοβιβλίο, όπου μπορείτε και να αφήνετε σχόλια. Το άρθρο απευθύνεται στους αγγλόφωνους αναγνώστες και τα σχόλια στα Ελληνικά θα διαγράφονται.
The troll-o-miracle of Elder Pastitsios
Unlike the previous installment, this article is quite different. Last time we had a miracle exposed as fraud. This time we have the case of a miracle that never happened (and it’s pretty fresh news as well).
The perpetrator is “Elder Pastitsios”, a parody facebook persona meant to poke fun at the hundreds (if not hundred thousands) of people that have elevated a now deceased monk (Elder Paisios) from the Mouth Athos monastic community to near sainthood and prophet-hood [think “Mother Teresa” only even more (in)famous]. The names obviously rhyme, but the first one is based on a classic greek pasta dish (and is a reference to the Flying Spaghetti Monster). Right wing and conservative publications often write about the monk’s alleged miracles and prophecies, much to the delight of their readership (and the economic crisis has only made things worse; with his “prophecies” a daily occurrence).
So this guy had the idea to create a fake account of a miracle by mixing up 5-6 other supposed miracles by the same monk and pass it along to a christian magazine and see if they would ever bother to double check its source and claims (needless to say I wouldn’t be writing this article if they had) and how fast the story would spread. That was a week ago.
Apparently the magazine swallowed the story whole and resolved to publish it in September’s issue (it doesn’t circulate in August). After this, the prankster also sent it to several “pious” websites. The chain of copying started soon after that; within a couple of days and as of today the article has been duplicated, apparently verbatim, on at least 14 other websites (by the prankster’s screenshot evidence) and a Google search for “new miracle elder paisios serres” (in Greek) returns more than 75,000 hits.
The unveiling was yesterday afternoon at this facebook page and it has already started being referred to as the “troll-o-miracle” on the Greek Web. Hopefully the prankster also informed the magazine so they won’t publish the “miracle” (I like to think that the specific magazine was selected precisely because there would be time to withdraw the article without causing damages; other than prestige).
I’ll admit that the whole thing is quite amusing and hopefully there will be no consequences other than bruised egos (provided the affected websites even acknowledge the fabricated nature of the miracle; which they may never do). However, at this point I would like to remind everyone that no one is safe from confirmation bias. I say that lest we become cocky and start making fun at the “silly believers” when the atheist blogosphere could easily fall victim to a similar prank.
Let’s consider this a precious lesson in source-checking… with a humourous twist.
It does make one wonder however, how many other miracle accounts were not just legends or events blown out of proportion, but complete fabrications; pious fabrications meant to strengthen the flock’s faith, but fabrications none-the-less.
For those interested in learning more details about the “miracle” I offer the following summary. I’d rather not translate the whole thing for fear of copyright issues, especially since it might end up in the actual magazine after all. And at the moment no christian website seems to realize it was a prank; nor their readers.
The miracle supposedly happened in small village near the city of Serres, witnessed by someone referred to as “Pantelis K.” (this anonymity is typical in greek miracles, unlike in the U.S.) and the account was entrusted to a “Subdeacon Amphilochius” of the Sts. Taxiarchs Cathedral of Serres (a non-existent person).
Pantelis K. is (supposedly) an 18-year-old drug addict that got involved in a motorcycle accident and ended up in the Serres General Hospital. Pantelis was declared brain-dead on July 12th, 2 days before his 18th birthday. His mother, after a consultation with her priest/spiritual guide, left her son and took the bus to the place where Elder Paisios is buried, a monastery near Thessaloniki, unaware of the fact that that very day was also the 18th anniversary of Paisios’ death; she had given birth to her son the same day Paisios had died! (go figure)
When she reached the crowded monastery, she found out about that detail and she almost fainted and felt something divine touch her. She patiently waited for 4 hours for her turn to pray in front of the Elder’s tomb and also took some dirt from the tomb. She brought it back with her to Serres, the priest blessed it and made it into a charm, which she then placed under her brain-dead son’s pillow. (apparently the dirt was charged with the monk’s grace or something)
During the night, both she and her son saw the Elder Paisios in their dreams and (as is to be expected) the boy made a full recovery (otherwise it would have been a lousy miracle). The account ends with what appears to be a genuine quote of Paisios.