March 16, 2020

What a Greek Bishop Did When an Epidemic of Cholera Ravaged a Community in 1854

In the Greek scientific journal Mnemon (Μνήμων) 14 (1992, pp. 49-69) there is an informative article by Christos Loukos titled "Epidemic and Community. Cholera in Ermoupolis, Syros (1854)." The article examines the problems faced by the community of Ermoupolis on the Greek island of Syros when it faced an epidemic of cholera in 1854. In this article we also read about the stance taken by the local ecclesiastical community. Loukos writes:

"There was no particular explosion of religiosity. Bishop Daniel of Syros and Tinos allowed for the fasting of the fifteen days of August to be dissolved in order for the inhabitants to be better fed, and he agreed with the authorities to limit divine services to a minimum to avoid gatherings of individuals. After being pressured, he gave in to the request to have a procession done, which he considered 'ill-timed due to the fact that crowds will gather together.' Most of the time there were no funerals but the dead were distanced from the relatives and quickly brought to the grave.

The plague was terrible, with terrifying results, because every hour a parent would see their beloved child, a child their beloved parent, a spouse their beloved spouse, relatives their beloved relatives, and so on, be removed from their embrace like an abducted convict by four porters to the mournful and silent chant of the priest in light of their long journey to their eternal habitation."

What we observe here is that the local Bishop of Syros, Daniel, took tough measures to tackle the cholera epidemic some 170 years ago.

Below is a brief biography of Bishop Daniel of Syros translated from the website of the Metropolis of Syros:

"Daniel (who in the world was called Demetrios) Kontoudes, was born in Chios in 1801. At the age of eight, his parents gave him over to Nea Moni Monastery in Chios, where in 1819 he was ordained a deacon and renamed Daniel. He went to Constantinople to increase his education, and being held in high esteem by Patriarch Chrysanthos who was from Serres, at the age of 24 he was ordained the Metropolitan of Chios in 1825. There in difficult moments he showed mercy towards those who were in misery and deprived, he rescued those who were being persecuted by the enraged Muslims, consoled the suffering and comforted those in sorrow. He did not cease day or night proclaiming the majesty and virtue and grandeur and truth of the Orthodox faith. In 1827, during the second revolutionary movement of Chios, he with his fellow citizens fled to Syros, where he remained and religiously served his fellow citizens that fled the island. Living in Ermoupolis, beloved and honored by all, he was named Bishop of Karystia. In 1842 he was transferred by the Holy Synod to the widowed seat of Syros and Tinos. He worked in decorating the churches, establishing new churches, cultivating religious zeal, catechizing the heterodox, educating young children, teaching the clergy, setting up a fund for the needs of the poor and orphans, and was distinguished for his good works and philanthropy. He reposed in 1862."