By Eudoxia Augoustinou
Undoubtedly the year 1940 belongs to all the Greeks. Our people then were all united as a single soul, without any hesitation, in its stand against the raging torrent of Fascism and Nazism. Hence, the Church would not be absent from this titanic battle, which began on Monday October 28th in the year 1940, whose role today is permanently and systematically ignored or suppressed. And, as always, so also in 1940, the Church quickly acted with recorded acts of heroism and resistance, and became once again the guardian angel of a hurting people and an enclave of salvation.
With the declaration of war, the Holy Synod, chaired by Archbishop Chrysanthos of Athens, issued a proclamation to the people: "The Church blesses the sacred weapons and has confidence that the children of our Nation are inclined to obey Her call as well as that of God, hastening with one soul and heart to fight on behalf of our altars and hearths and freedom and honor ... and they will be honored with a beautiful death rather than an ugly life of slavery... Let us cast our worries upon the Lord."
Then, without delay, eighty-four clerics of all ranks abandoned their urgent obligations and their ministry to climb, without ever turning back, the mountains of Northern Epirus, to strengthen the Greek soldiers with their fiery sermons, confession and the Divine Liturgy. They went along with them to glory, but also to pain and death. How many times did they refresh the dry lips of soldiers, wipe away their tears and sweat, comforting the heroes as if they were their own? They also adorned the dead and buried the lion-hearted ones who sacrificed themselves on the battlefield.
And when in April of 1941 the Germans entered victoriously into Greece, it was again the Church that carried the heavy burden to rescue the people. The first to raise the flag of resistance was "the supreme spiritual leader", Archbishop Chrysanthos of Athens. He refused to participate in delivering Athens to the City Commissioners; he refused to perform a Doxology in the Cathedral of Athens; he refused to swear in the occupying government of Tsolakoglou - at the cost of being removed from his throne.
His successor was the "caring and rigid patriot" Damaskinos, who proved to be a great personality and leader. He founded the Greek Organization of Christian Solidarity (Ε.Ο.Χ.Α.) and issued a desperate appeal to the Red Cross worldwide to send aid to the suffering Greek people.
Walking along the paths of history we reverently bow our heads before the greatness of our fathers:
The courageous Metropolitan Spyridon Vlachos of Ioannina, who from the first moment was in Metopos, and entered first with soldiers into liberated Argyrokastro Castle.
Metropolitan Iakovos I of Mytilene who, when the Germans entered the town of Mytilene, before the highest German military commander, said that he was appointed by God to protect his flock.
Metropolitan Joachim of Demetriados who, after the bombing of Volos, remained there to suffer with the people of God trying to inspire them.
Metropolitan Gennadios of Thessaloniki who, at the requirement of the military commander to show him hostages, approached the German commander with certain priests and said: "We are the requested hostages."
How much also does Aigio owe Archimandrite Constantine Chronis (later Metropolitan of Alexandroupolis), who saved them from complete destruction when the German military commander threatened them after the slaughter of Kalavryta.
The later Metropolitan Dionysios Haralambous of Trikkis and Stagon, while he was detained in a concentration camp of the Germans called "Pavlos Melas" in Thessaloniki, secured the possibility of his release. He did not take it. Rather he stayed with the other inmates, in order to support them. He was taken to Auschwitz and "came close to death".
Archimandrite Dionysios Papanikolopoulos, later Metropolitan of Edessa and Pella, on Holy Thursday in 1941, after fiery words, managed to save from the bombings and extinction the historic battleship "Averof".
But also "the Church of Crete", writes Stephanos Mylonakis, "never was absent from acts of patriotism, sacrifices and holocausts ... rather ... they were immediately found in the ramparts and bastions of their beloved homeland ... We see there bishops who suffered and were imprisoned, who never yielded or retreated."
Monasteries also vigorously participated in our struggles, always standing up to the waves of barbarian attacks. Some were destroyed by the conquerors, and were looted, burned, blown up, or payed the heavy tax of blood. In particular we mention the Monasteries of Mount Athos, Hydra, the Holy Forty Martyrs in Sparta, Damastas in Lamia, the Great Cave and Holy Lavra in Kalavryta, and Vella in Ioannina which converted into a hospital.
Endless are the biographies of our ethnomartyr clergy, who fought in order for us to breath the air of freedom!
However, for the many sacrifices and self-emptying suffered by the Church, for the sake of our Nation, it is constantly humiliated and questioned by those who for reasons of justice owe their gratitude. May God forgive us for our folly and dire mistakes.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.