March 27, 2021

Athanasios Diakos, Papaflessas and the Taking Up Of Arms

By Archimandrite Vasilios Bakoyiannis

These two (among others) Clergymen took up arms and went to battle on behalf of the faith and homeland. From an ecclesiastical perspective, did they do the right thing?

Saint Luke of Simferopol needed as a doctor, to dedicate some time (around 1930) to do surgeries for pyogenic infections, temporarily leaving aside the Priesthood. However, during this time he made a great discovery in medical science. His name was discussed (under Stalin!) throughout the Soviet Union. On the radio, in newspapers and in magazines the Priest Luke was praised! The Christians boasted!

So Christ appeared to Saint Luke and said to him: "For what you have done for Me, leaving the priesthood on the sidelines, I forgive you, because for your sake, My Christians have been encouraged!" Was this temporary abandonment of the Priesthood a sin, even though it served for such a good purpose?

Papaflessas and Athanasios Diakos among others did not leave the Priesthood for a moment, but they cast away their cassocks, took up their weapons, and participated in the Revolution of 1821, shedding human blood. Because they shed human blood they were unable to return to the Priesthood, so they ceased to be Clergymen. Let us not forget that King David wanted to build a Temple as a house of the Lord among His people, but God did not allow him (1 Kings 8:19), because he was in wars and shed human blood! (1 Chronicles 22:8).

Those who therefore sacrificed the Priesthood, which cannot be sacrificed with anything (it is like sacrificing Christ!), and took up arms, are not worthy of honor by the Church. Instead they are simply worthy of forgiveness, worthy of mercy, because they shed their blood for the homeland. The renowned Archbishop and President of Cyprus, Makarios, according to Saint Iakovos Tsalikes, was saved, because, among other things he was willing to sacrifice himself for his homeland. We also can say the same, and we pray for it, on behalf of the Priests of 1821, who cast aside their cassocks and took up arms.

Athanasios Diakos was roasted alive on a spit, refusing to become a Turk, a Muslim. On this basis, some have raised the issue of his canonization, that is, to be proclaimed a Holy Martyr of Christ.

However, a Martyr of Christ implies someone who gives a testimony, a testimony for Christ, of His love and His forbearance. Saint Haralambos called his executioners "my brothers" while be was being tortured! And the executioners, Baptos and Porphyrios, seeing the love of Christ in the face of the Saint, believed in Christ, and were martyred on behalf of Christ!

Therefore, a unique characteristic of the Holy Martyrs is not that they simply endured tortures (even unbelievers endure tortures), but that they endured them while loving their enemies, showing by their actions the love of Christ and His forbearance. In contrast, Athanasios Diakos was martyred while killing his enemies!

As Christians, above all as Clergy, we bear testimony for Christ in this world, so that Christ will be glorified or lest we become the cause of blaspheming His Name, thus expelling the world from Him!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.