Archive for the ‘Orthodox Christianity’ Category

With the end of the 2015 National Elections in Greece, it became a point of interest that Greece elected their first ever openly atheist Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras. While this is mildly interesting (mostly since I’m more inclined to believe that Tsipras’ atheism is an outgrowth of his marxist past than any real philosophical reflection) it is important for people to understand the history that has shaped the current entangled relations between the Orthodox Church and the Hellenic Republic and why this creates special challenges for the secularization of the country.

Hopefully the following article will help you understand the complex interaction between Orthodoxy, the greek national identity and the government.

And in order to do that we have to start our historical journey way back, in the era of the roman and byzantine emperors. Yes, the seeds of the current situation were planted all the way back in 313 A.D., when Emperor Constantine signed the Edict of Milan.

Two notes: All unsourced images are public domain images from Wikipedia; the word “Church” is used with two meanings: before the establishment of the Greek State, it refers to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, after that it’s a reference to the Church of Greece.

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In case you don’t recognize the name “Elder Pastitsios”, you can refresh your memory here and here.

Philippos Loizos, the person behind the online pastafarian monk and notorious for his epic trolling, was arrested for “malintentional blasphemy” on September 24th, 2012. Today the court ruled “guilty” for the misdemeanor of “habitual revilement of a religion” and sentenced him to a 10-month prison term. Loizos immediately appealed the ruling and thankfully the appeal suspended the sentence, otherwise he would have been sent to jail.

While I hope that at some point in the appeal process the legal system will come to its sense and repel the sentence, I honestly fear that Philippos is in for the long run and might have to seek justice to the European Human Rights Court.

It’s always nice to see that the hellenic justice system is such a stickler for the letter of the law; especially antiquated legislature that goes against any concept of human rights and freedom of speech; things supposedly protected by the Constitution and the Human Rights Charter.


The Martyrdom of Elder Pastitsios
And the elder turned to the heavens and he cried with a great voice:
“Monster, forgive them; they know not what they do”.
by Yannis Antonopoulos

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This season brought us some strange rulings from the Hellenic Supreme Court of Cassation (aka “Areus Pagus”). One I personally find hardly surprising and the other came as quite a shock.

First off, a clarification: Areus Pagus is not like the SCOTUS. It only deals with civil and criminal cases; the constitutionality of legislation is judged by a different court, the Council of State. Second, it has an icon of Jesus hanging over the judges, but that’s a different story entirely. The Italians have been fighting against this for quite some time with hardly any results, so I’m not confident at all about Greece making any sort of progress on this issue.

Generally speaking, Areus Pagus has a good reputation in greek society and is relatively well-respected, but has a history of having Themis (the greek equivalent of Justitia) peek under its blindfold and put a finger on her scales in cases where political issues are being considered.

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Welcome to a fresh installment of “T’is a miracle! Greek-Orthodox style”: Bogus miracles and exposès from our Greek-Orthodox side of the fence. This time we have an interesting debunking of sorts of the orthodox (and catholic) tradition of saintly remains veneration via a personal anecdote told by the Archbishop of Cyrpus, Chrysostom II, of all people!

A shout-out to the friends over at the “Cyprus Atheists” facebook group for alerting me to this interesting anecdote. (Για την ιστορία στα Ελληνικά, διαβάστε το άρθρο της εφημερίδας παρακάτω).

Holy Chicken! or
Why the Archbishop of Cyprus doesn’t believe in relics

The newspaper clipping on the left comes from the greek cypriot newspaper “Politis” and according to my sources it was published some 5 years ago (it was certainly written after Chrysostom ascended to the archbishopric throne of Cyprus in 2006, as is apparent from the text). The author, Gabriel Michael from Nicosia, claims to have been a first-hand witness to the current Archbishop narrating the story. The story goes something like this:

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Excommunication has always been a strong suit in the Church’s hand in order to keep the flock in line. While churches worldwide are reluctant to use it nowadays, it used to be more prevalent in medieval times and were used in variety of situations; preemptively to guarantee support, punitively to control unwanted behaviour and, of course, as an act of post mortem revenge (collectively recognized as the most contemptible). The Orthodox Church’s excommunications were not nearly as devastating as in the West, but it still carried a stigma for the sufferer and while the Church was always quick to condemn, it often forgot to forgive (bureaucracy can do that, I suppose). Here’s an nice example that recently surfaced.

It appears that in the 1530s, the Ecumenical Patriarch excommunicated fishermen that were encroaching upon the eel fishing grounds of a monastery in the Amvrakikos Gulf in Western Greece, near the city of Vonitsa. The monks of the monastery of the Virgin Mary of Koronisi were furious by the fishermen who were making their eel fishing more difficult and petitioned the Patriarch for help. The result was the following excommunication:

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