October 22, 2020

Holy Ethnomartyr Gregory, Bishop of Methoni († 1825)

St. Gregory of Methoni (Feast Day - October 22)

Gregory Papatheodoros was born in 1770 in the village of Albaina in Olympia. He was the son of Theodoros Papatheodoros and Anastasia from the Sakelarios family. His first letters were learned in his village, and he completed his knowledge in the Monastery of Vytina, which then had a rich library. According to Grigoriadis, "he was a man of great education and spoke three languages, Turkish, Arabic and French, and knew a little Italian." 
He leaned towards service in the Church and followed the priestly stages. He was ordained a Deacon on May 16, 1800, and a Presbyter and a Chancellor on April 9, 1806. He was ordained Bishop of Methoni, Navarino and Neokastro (August 12, 1816 - October 22, 1825) by Patriarch Cyril VI of Constantinople (1813 - 1818).

In 1817 he traveled to Russia and presented himself before the tsar to whom, with rare eloquence, he exposed the atrocities of the Turkish conquerors and the miserable condition of the enslaved Greeks, and from whom he asked for support and help for the slave nation.

He returned to Methoni in 1818 with a Russian warship. He was then initiated into the Friendly Society by
the doctor Antonis Pelopidas on October 22, 1818, while on December 26, 1819 by Anagnostaras Papageorgiou. He is the first of the herarchs of the Peloponnese to be initiated into it, and his entry was greeted with enthusiasm by Alexandros Ypsilantis. He catechized and initiated many patriots to the secrets of the Friendly Society.

From the beginning of the Revolution of 1821, Gregory initiated military action and leadership of 150 soldiers, together with the chiefs Papatsoras, Grigoriadis, Papatsonis, Doufas, Papazafiropoulos, and Constantine Peter Mavromichalis, among others, in the siege of the castles of Methoni and Neokastro. After a six-month siege of Neokastro, the Turks surrendered and the surrender agreement was signed by Gregory (August 7, 1821). The general commander of the Turkish forces, Mustafa Ali Basoglou, was forced to hand over the keys to the castle of Methoni to the general commander of the Greek camp, Bishop Gregory.

On March 29, 1823, he signed the First Minutes of the National Assembly of Astros, second in line after Theodoretos of Vresthenis. In 1824, when the division took place, Gregory was elected president of the Parliament and addressed on behalf of the House to the Panhellenic people the historic proclamation dated February 24, 1824.
Ibrahim's landing at Methoni in 1825 and Koroni found Gregory in the front line and he defended Paleokastro.
He mobilized the Messinian leaders and on April 26 occupied Navarino. Ibrahim, having as advisers foreign officers, besieged the castle from land and sea and prevented the supply of water and ammunition to the defenders. On April 29, Ibrahim tightened the siege and the defenders were forced to leave at night. Few were saved. Many were taken prisoner, including the wounded Bishop Gregory. He was shut in a dark and sunless dungeon in the castle of Methoni.

Ibrahim, after a hard day, summoned the captured Bishop Gregory to embrace Islam. He refused, saying: "The Bishop of Methoni worships two things in the world: Almighty God and his motherland."  
His ordeal continued throughout May and throughout the summer, a martyrdom lasting six months. The miserable conditions of his long imprisonment, torture and plague bring about his end. He surrendered his spirit on October 22, 1825, a Thursday. The Turks threw his body which was plagued with cholera into the sea. The waves however swept it away and wedged it into the mouth of a sea cave. The captain of Kefallonia, Dionysios Fokas, later found it there and took it to Odessa, where he buried it with honors.

The Diocese of Messinia erected his bust at the place of his martyrdom in Methoni. On June 29, 1960, the unveiling of his bust was made by the Metropolitan of Messinia, Chrysostomos (Daskalakis), who also delivered a timely speech.