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March 25, 2015

Germanos of Old Patras: The Hierarch of Freedom

We are publishing here a homily of Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos on Germanos of Old Patras (Palaion Patron Germanos), which was delivered in Patras at the "Protokliteion 2006" organized by the Sacred Metropolis of Patras and it was dedicated to the Hierarch of the Revolution.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Today's eucharistic gathering takes place on the occasion of events organized by the Sacred Metropolis of Patras with the inspiration and guidance of the Prelate of this Sacred Metropolis of Patras, Chrysostomos, for the great Hierarch of this Metropolis, Metropolitan Germanos of Old Patras, who brightened this hierarchical throne and loved the Church and people. And through the supplications of your Prelate and my beloved brother in Christ, Chrysostomos, I will refer to this wonderful personality, and we will especially see him through the perspective of the Hierarch of Freedom.

1. National and Ecclesiastical Freedom

This great Hierarch was actually inspired by the air of freedom. He could not see his flock and the Greek people in general being tortured by slavery, which is why he actively participated in the Revolution of 1821, raising its banner and in this way blessing the struggle for freedom.

By reading this side of his life, we find that he acted with faith in God and love for people, but at the same time he was distinguished for his prudence, composure and discernment. It's easy for someone to manifest these important qualities when in peacetime, but it is very difficult to have them when in war and in a revolutionary atmosphere. Yet, he fought for freedom through his own inner freedom, which emerged as sobriety, composure and discernment. Addressing the issues of the organization of the Struggle, he did so "with prudence, thoughtfulness and conservatism". And in the early years of the Struggle he calmed passions and regulated conflicts. "He mediated, reconciled and contributed to the subheading of the Parliamentary and Executive powers through the Agency on 1 January 1822."

I would like, however, to move forward and identify another side of Germanos of Old Patras unknown to many, which is related to another struggle for freedom which consists in the effort by this great Orthodox Hierarch in maintaining the freedom of the Church from other dependencies, and thus acted as a true Hierarch. Germanos of Old Patras did not only love his homeland and the people, but he loved the Orthodox Church. He didn't only care about political freedom, but also for ecclesiastical freedom. From the doctoral thesis of Constantine Manikas we learn a lot of information about his activities in this regard.

It is known that the Greek Revolution faced from the outset the opposition of the Holy Alliance, which is why the politicians of the Revolution tried to make contact with the leaders of European countries who met in June of 1822 in Verona, Italy to decided on the stance they would take in regards the Greek Revolution. The then Greek Government made several steps to come into contact with these leaders, especially with the Papal State which played a large role in these cases. Unfortunately all these efforts failed because the leaders of the European Nations at that time did not favor revolutionary movements.

The Greek Government then decided to send the Pope a Commission consisting of Germanos of Old Patras and George, the son of Petrobey Mavromichalis. This mission had two purposes. One was political and concerned the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Papal State, and the other was ecclesiastical and dealt with the opening of negotiations for the union of the Churches, because the political leaders of free Greece wanted thus to achieve the recognition of the new Greek State by the Pope and hence its recognition by the major European powers, in which the Pope had great influence.

The mission arrived in Ancona on the 14th or 15th of December in 1822 and immediately began its work. It appears from various documents that Vatican officials sent the Hierarch of Patras the position of the Pope, that the union between the Churches could take place based on the model of the Synod of Florence, by granting certain privileges similar to those given the Hierarchs of Poland. In actuality we had to give up our Orthodox faith and become Uniates.

Germanos of Old Patras, as an Orthodox Hierarch, was not prepared to accept such a proposal which consisted of a betrayal of the faith and the enslavement of the truth of the Church, and indeed he wanted to preserve the Orthodox Church free from all bondage. Thus, he tried in various ways to avoid visiting Rome and meeting with the Pope, on the other hand he deliberately misinformed the Greek political leadership by hiding everything he discussed with the papal officials, perhaps because the political powers would prefer something like what was proposed, as long as it benefitted political matters which interested them at that time.

This tactic of Germanos of Old Patras aimed towards three purposes. First, to safeguard the validity and truth of the Orthodox faith and not be altered by various cacodoxies. Secondly, to not undermine the validity of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which he was still subject to, because such initiatives were under its canonical jurisdiction. And thirdly, because he wanted to ensure the validity and freedom of the Orthodox Church from the successive and progressive political interference, because it seems that then also the political leadership wanted to use the Church for various political considerations.

In this way the great Hierarch of Patras became a struggler for freedom from both a national and Orthodox ecclesiastical perspective. He wanted to hold high the flag of national and ecclesiastical freedom. He acted as a Hierarch of the Orthodox Church that loved God, as was taught by our Fathers, loved the Church, recognizing its doctrines and traditions, and he loved people and did not want to see them suffering from any bondage or dependence.

2. A Model for Contemporary Clergy and Laity

This Prelate must become a model for us contemporary Hierarchs, but generally all Clergy who have undertaken the responsible mission of spiritually guiding the people of God, to preserve our pious traditions and love the members of the reasonable flock of Christ. We must be Hierarchs of freedom, preaching and working for the release of people from contemporary slaveries and dependencies. Besides, one of the big issues people are facing today is freedom. I will make reference to certain aspects of this contemporary freedom.

We must safeguard the truth of the faith with our traditions unadulterated from foreign impurities, to be free of heterodox teachings and secularism which alter the truth given to us by Christ and was preserved and transmitted to us by the Apostles and Holy Fathers. Let us not put our personal interests and communications above the doctrinal truths of our faith.

Then, we must retain the "space" of the Church free from outside interference that alter her life. The Church has her life, her sacred canons, and there should not enter within her "space" various arrogant considerations. At the same time we must preserve the work of the Church which is unifying. We say this from the view that the Church is not a closed system of certain people, but it is open to the world and receives people from all social classes, as well as from all political and party colors. The Church of Christ is not conducive to and does not cultivate the division of society, but it does everything to lead divided society to unity.

We must also struggle for the freedom of man from any dependency. One of the requirements of modern man is the freedom of the person. Various dependencies undermine freedom. It is not only addictive substances that destroy the freedom of man, but also all kinds of ideologies, obsessions and fanaticisms, authoritarian dynasties that operate as the opium of the people, the dominance of logic and sensationalism which do not allow a person to act as free beings, the slavery to the genome and generally anything that acts deterministically and violates a person's freedom.

Moreover, because nowadays there prevail diverse criseses (social, familial, educational, ontological), it is necessary to speak of the freedom associated with critical thinking, especially with the freedom of the person. And such freedom is a matter of education, an education that knows what to teach children, how to teach them, and how to guide them. Yet, there is a big problem today, the problem of the "pedagogy of embarrassment", since we do not clearly know the what, how and where. Some are ready to throw the stone of anathema against the youth, but we should not be ignorant of what one psychotherapist says, that "the violence (of youth) is the result of an unbearable life", and according to another, violence is a "normal" response to abnormal social conditions of life. Besides, youthful barbarism has adult and sometimes immature parents and social leaders.

My beloved brethren,

The Apostle Paul, speaking of the redemptive work of Christ, speaks of Him as having freed us from sin, the devil and death, and so he instructs: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1). We must remain free from any dependence that is materialistic, idealistic, logic dominated, sensationalistic and social. This is the work of every Hierarch and Christian in our days. This is what the great Hierarch Germanos of Old Patras instructs us. And for this reason he must be for us a model. As he struggled for our freedom, so also must we struggle for the diverse freedom, and to be worthy of freedom.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ο Ιεράρχης της ελευθερίας", March 2007. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.