His All Holiness: God is not your TV remote control!
On this Greek island, religious services for weddings, baptisms and funerals run somewhere between 30 euros and 100 euros; the owner of a precious piece of land could be your local priest; your rich landlord could be the jobless son of a priest from a nearby village; and the elderly with no relatives have the habit of leaving their property to the suddenly caring priest who may have developed an affection for them only days before they die. The locals will be glad to tell you stories of suddenly caring priests having found themselves to be the sole beneficiary of a recently deceased elderly person. Never mind, that the friendship, recently begun, was short-lived.
The Church of Greece is one of the richest corporate entities of the country and most Greeks, whether devout Orthodox or not, respect the clergy – socially and financially. But that does not suffice, apparently. Last year, after a deadly ammunitions blast knocked out a key power station in Greek Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos II called on Greek Cypriots not to use the electricity the Turks in the island’s north proposed to provide. Before that the archbishop had declared the consumption of halloumi cheese produced by Turkish Cypriots as “religiously not permissible.” Fortunately, the Church of Cyprus was wealthy enough to feed its priests with Greek cheese and power its churches with Greek electricity.
Later last year, Bartholomew, the archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome, advised the Greeks that the solution to the punishing economic crisis was a return to God and Christian values, prompting this columnist to write “His All Holiness: God is not your central banker,” which argued: “His All Holiness: Greece is not on the verge of an embarrassing bankruptcy because the Greeks have forgotten to return to God and Christian values. Nor did the catastrophic earthquake hit Istanbul because girls in miniskirts drank at nightclubs, or gays had flourished or more young men were addicted to drugs. The Holocaust did not happen because Jews were eternally condemned, nor did the Japanese one day wake up to atomic bombs because they had prayed to the wrong god...
“God is probably too busy to attend to Greek wages and unemployment, or to the Turkish-Kurdish war which will not fade away if more Turks and Kurds return to God and Muslim values. He is probably too busy to care about whether Greek Cypriots ate Turkish halloumi or consumed Turkish electricity.”
Now we have another His All Holiness, this time Anthimos of Thessaloniki, who recently preached that “We are obligated to protect our people, especially the priests.” Since the priests of the Church of Greece are not in physical danger, the metropolitan of Greece’s second biggest city must have been referring to some other kind of “protection.” Never mind, His All Holiness, members of Greece’s most financially viable corporate entity are already well off. But would doubling wedding, baptism and funeral charges satisfy the metropolitan? I don’t think so. His All Holiness also thinks that “any form of union other than that of a married couple is prostitution.” I will leave it to Greece’s law enforcement authorities to count how many millions of prostitutes work in the country.
Most recently, the very ironic Metropolitan Anthimos delivered a speech on forgiveness and advised against Greeks watching Turkish soap operas which, he said, “insult and challenge our consciousness.” Just turn off your TVs, the metropolitan said.
His All Holiness: I shall perfectly comply with your caution since I don’t have a TV. Nor do I watch any soap operas. I am not sure if that should qualify me as an asset for “our consciousness,” but I expect you to understand that God is probably too busy to care about which soaps the Greeks are watching any more than he has time to consider which cheese they are eating or which electricity powers their homes. He is probably too busy watching over how wizardly your holy colleagues pile up personal wealth.