April 20, 2021

Interview Regarding the 200th Anniversary of the Greek Revolution with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos (1 of 2)

The following is a recorded interview with the journalist of the Radio Station of the Church of Greece, Adamantia Bourtzinou, conducted on January 21, 2021, with His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou, regarding the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence of 1821.

Adamantia Bourtzinou: We have the special pleasure and honor to have on our telephone line His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou Mr. Hierotheos. Good day, Your Eminence. Your blessing.

His Eminence: Good morning. Hope you are well and a good morning to all our listeners.

Α.B.: Thank you very much for being with us today and we will have the opportunity to discuss the first event that took place in the Holy Metropolis of Nafpaktos for the 200 years since the Greek Revolution of 1821. This year the Holy Synod has organized celebrations in all the Metropolises and you have already begun.

H.E.: Thank you very much. It was indeed the first event in the Holy Metropolis, for the 200th anniversary of the Revolution of 1821, but it also happened to be the first event in the Church of Greece. Why? Because here in Nafpaktos every year, on January 2nd, I have a meeting with the students. For twenty-five years that I have been here in the Holy Metropolis, on this day I meet with the students and the graduates of the Lyceums and we have a discussion, I develop a topic for them, we discuss it, we cut the New Year's cake, and there is a reception.

It thus happened to be the first event of the Church of Greece for the anniversary of the national uprising of 1821.

The theme I chose is "The meaning of the anniversary or the celebration of the anniversary of 1821". Of course, this year there could not be a speech and the meeting as there is every year, but I posted on the internet, on the website of my Metropolis, a speech which I made and it was posted on the corresponding page, which presents the true meaning of the Revolution of 1821. And I am happy for that, because it is also the first event of the Holy Metropolis and the first event in general of the Church of Greece.

Α.B.: It is a fact that many things from time to time have been said about the Revolution of 1821, Your Eminence. In recent years, the Church of Greece has held ten scientific conferences, the tenth of which took place a short time ago, shortly before the end of 2020, and many interesting things have been said. However, you had a speech on the 2nd of January, as you said, where you talk about the meaning of the celebration, but you also give the whole background to it and the historical context in which it was originally born. Would you like to give us some information about this internal identity of the revolutionaries, of the Greek revolutionaries, but also about everything that guided them. What did they see that led them to the Revolution, what was their identity?

H.E.: Thank you very much for the question. Indeed, when one wants to study this entire great event, the event of the Revolution of 1821, one cannot dwell on a few individual events, that is, one cannot focus one's lens on a few events, that is, one must see the whole. So I believe - and this was my whole speech - that in order to be able to see what this was, the Revolution of 1821, one should view it as a holy revolution. It had nothing to do either with the French Revolution or with other revolutions. However, it must be seen in the context of what happened before the Revolution, what existed before the Revolution, what happened during the Revolution and what happened after the formation of the Greek State.

Therefore, I consider as a classic expression what was made by Spyridon Trikoupis, who was the historian of the Revolution, who says that this Revolution, the entire struggle of the Greeks had a dual character: it was "a revolution and an apostasy". This issue requires a discussion, what does apostasy mean, but let's look at the first thing you asked.

Indeed, the Romans were 400 years in slavery and in some areas it went 500 and 600 years, if one considers that before the Ottoman Empire, before the Ottoman yoke, there was Venetian rule or Frankish rule in various regions since 1204. This means that there were areas that are considered 500 and 600 years under a foreign dynasty, they had lost their freedom. Well, this whole time needs to be studied by someone.

It is the Church which operated as a national Church with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Ecumenical Patriarch, the then Holy Metropolises, with the worship, with the Divine Liturgy that kept this entire tradition held by the Greeks, or rather Romans as they were known. The New Martyrs were observed, throughout these years under the Turkish yoke, not only in the area of Greece, but also in other parts of the Balkans, in the Peninsula of Haemus, who were martyred in order to not become Muslims, they were martyred because they confessed Christ. There were many waves of people converting to Islam and yet they remained in the faith of Christ. And every time a New Martyr was martyred, such as Saint Kosmas the Aitolos, the greatest of these martyrs, and in every place they existed, there was a "national holiday" and it was a powerful message that they must maintain the Orthodox traditions.

Therefore, wherever there were New Martyrs, there was the whole life of the Church, there was education which was cultivated by the Church, where they kept the language and the ecclesiastical life of all the Greek slaves. Where does this appear? It appears in the character of the revolutionary, that is, of those who revolted, of the chiefs. And one has to study what this character was. It was the character of a Roman who believed in God, in the Church and in the Homeland.

I will give you a typical example, which Kolokotronis says in his Memoirs, how a certain Englishman, Homilton, when he entered Tripoli, met Kolokotronis and told him that he had to compromise. And Kolokotronis answered him, as he describes it: “This will never happen. Freedom or Death. We, Captain Homilton, never made a compromise with the Turks." And he continues: "Our emperor was killed [he means Constantine Palaiologos], he did not make any treaty. His guard was at war with the Turks forever and two fortresses were always unruly." Homilton asked him: "Who is his royal guard? What are his fortresses?" And Kolokotronis answered: "Our emperor's guard are the so-called Klefts and the fortresses are Mani and Souli and the mountains."

Look at the consciousness he had, that there was always a readiness, a struggle, a struggle for freedom, without compromise. However, there also existed people who compromised.

Α.B.: And there was also a continuation, Your Eminence, that is, this chain was never broken, it was not cut.

H.E.: Exactly. That is why we have constant revolutions and this role was played by the Church with its entire tradition with the Hierarchs, with the Priests, with the Monks, with the Monasteries. When the Romans went to the churches and read the services at Christmas and Easter, they remained faithful to both the iambic canons and the tradition and the language and the ecclesiastical life. They kept the torch of freedom lit. And that is why when the Revolution took place, there were people who wanted to revolutionize, they wanted to form the Romaiiko, as it was called.

Α.B.: And this never stops, and as you said, there were many revolutions that were baptized in blood, people were killed. We have the New Martyrs and this tradition of Orthodoxy continues and we speak of and apply, as we say, the Philokalic Renaissance. We are returning to the Fathers of the Church again.

H.E.: It is a great blessing from God that on the eve of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, a century before this whole theology of hesychasm had been developed, all this tradition, which later became known as the philokalic tradition. All this theology of hesychasm with Saint Gregory Palamas, showed the difference between the theology of Saint Gregory Palamas and Barlaam, who was a western theologian. Well, this entire hesychast movement, with the prayer, with the relationship between noetic prayer and the Divine Liturgy, was a blessing from God that preceded the enslavement, and this whole movement lasted throughout the Turkish occupation. This is what Saint Kosmas the Aitolos taught.

Α.B.: And this is what seems to be what upheld them, that is, it upheld their soul.

H.E.: Yes, it is what I told you before, it was the Romaiik life that was observed, the philokalic tradition whose culmination was observed with Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite. When one reads the texts of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, and especially the New Martyrology, which describes about 100 lives of New Martyrs, one sees what many say and consider that this text was considered a revolutionary text. This book was considered a national uprising, because through it Saint Nikodemos threw out various slogans: Remain faithful to your faith, brothers, not to lose God, not to lose Christ, to remain in the Church. It was a revolutionary book that was circulated at that time and read.

But that is not all. There is also the fact that in every place there is a New Martyr. Here in Aitoloakarnania there lived and was raised Saint Kosmas the Aitolos, who journeyed in Epirus and was martyred in North Epirus. In Ioannina I grew up with Saint George the New Martyr, in Agrinio there is Saint John who was martyred in Vrachoria (as Agrinio was then called), in Mytilene, in Hydra, everywhere you look, you will find some New Martyr who was martyred for the love of Christ, to remain faithful to the tradition of the Church. And around his tomb and around his feast the Christians gathered and I would say this was a revolutionary gathering and a gathering of freedom, apart from the Klefts and the Armatoloi who were fighting in the mountains.