April 22, 2021

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

...continud from part one.

Α.B.: With what you are saying, Your Eminence, you reminded me of the Naval Battle of Gerontas - and I bring this up because you speak of the Orthodox ethos of the Greek slaves - and I remembered that on the 29th of August in 1824 the Naval Battle took place, and the Greeks with Andreas Miaoulis as the navy captain defeated the Turkish and Egyptian fleets, and when the battle was over and everyone was all smoked from the gunpowder, Miaoulis gave the crew bread and olives because it was a day when a strict fast is observed, it was the feast of Saint John, and despite the fact that they could have eaten anything different that day, they instead observed the fast of the Church.

H.E.: Yes, we see this in all the leaders of the Revolution, who had this ethos. And above all, of course, we see this in Makriyannis. When one reads Makriyannis' Memoirs, one sees the whole tradition they had. And what I want to say is that this was the tradition with which the Romans grew up, it is the Romaiik tradition, the Philokalic tradition, the Hesychast tradition.

Α.B.: How did this change, Your Eminence, and we then enter the other phase with the establishment of the State? What changes differentiates their life?

H.E.: I think when one reads various texts, it is clear what exactly happened. I read a very important book - though of course it is described by Fr. George Metallinos, Fr. John Romanides - but I would say I saw it clearly in another book that can be considered as an objective book. One can accuse and say, "You priests say these things because you are priests and are of the Church," but I read a book by Elli Skopetea, who is now dead and was a professor at the University of Thessaloniki, which is an amazing book. Those who are interested in seeing exactly what happened with the Revolution, and especially after the Revolution, should read it. Because the author collects the material through newspapers and describes the period from 1830 to 1880; she records exactly what happened in that period. Her book is titled The Model Kingdom and the Great Idea (Τό πρότυπο Βασίλειο καί ἡ Μεγάλη Ἰδέα).

In this book, among other things, it is written that in the first period after the Revolution and the formation of the Greek State there is a huge disagreement between the natives and the non-natives. There is a great deal of discussion about the first Constitutions, about exactly who the Hellenes are, that is, about the Constitution of Epidaurus in 1822, where the Declaration of Independence was made, the Constitution of Astros in 1823, the Constitution of Troezen in 1827. The Constitution tries to determine who the Hellenes are, because until then they were called Romans. "I was born a Roman, and a Roman I will die." Well, they started discussing who the Hellenes are.

And it is written that the Hellenes are those who are indigenous inhabitants of the territory of Greece and believe in Christ, Hellenes are also those who will come, the foreign-born who will come and live. They try to give an identity for who the Hellenes are.

Why do I say this? Because it is described in this amazing book, which I mentioned above and is completely objective, because it presents facts, that the Great Powers that reacted to the Revolution in 1821 and when they opposed every revolution, they finally agreed to establish a first State in the Peloponnese, and then expanded to Central Greece with Kapodistrias, with three necessary preconditions: the first is, this State formation must be connected with ancient Greece, to cease to have any relation with Byzantium, what was called Romiosini, that is, the Roman Empire, so there will not be a reconstitution of the Roman Empire. And so archeological societies began to be established, to excavate, in order to connect this new State with ancient Greece. The second is to disconnect the umbilical cord with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and thus the Autocephalous status of the Church of Greece was proclaimed, to cease to have this relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. And third, it is to be oriented towards Europe.

These three conditions were set and accepted. That is why in the Constitutions they start saying who the Hellenes are. Why do they ask who are Hellenes? Because this mentality did not exist. They ask, who are the Hellenes who will be in the territory of Greece? This mentality of Greece did not exist, as a separate State consisting of Hellenes. That is, they tried to give identity to the new State, that Hellenes are those who believe in Christ and are indigenous, or those who will come from other places who were not liberated. Thus, a new reality is created.

The book is called The Model Kingdom and the Great Idea. "Model Kingdom" is an expression which comes from King George in 1863, where in the first speech he made he said we would be called the "Model Kingdom in the East". And the "Great Idea" is that the people understood that we did not fight to liberate the Peloponnese and Central Greece, we fought to reconstitute all of Romiosini. Therefore, the Great Idea was developed by Ioannis Kolettis. He is the one who "wrote" the birth certificate of the "Great Idea" with a speech which he made at the National Assembly of the Hellenes on 1-14-1844, in order to liberate other places and so forth.

And it is very characteristic the fact, which was noted by Fr. John Romanides and now has been uncovered by various research that is being done, that King Otto was called King of Greece, but when George came later on, he was called King of the Hellenes. Do you know what this means? It is very important.

Otto was called King of Greece during this period, while George in 1863 was called the King of the Hellenes, because around the 31st of January 1836 in London a Protocol was signed for the immigration and there they made the distinction between Hellenes who live in Greece and Greeks who remained in the other regions of the Ottoman Empire. Why was he not originally called King of the Hellenes, but was King of Greece? It was exactly when it was already determined who the Hellenes were and those outside Greece were not considered Hellenes, they were called Greeks and Romans, then George was named King of the Hellenes. There was a distancing from Romiosini going on.

Another characteristic that I want to tell you is that Kapodistrias, who was elected the first Governor of Greece in April 1828, and this is very important, submitted a plan to the Tsar for the reorganization of the Balkans and viewed Constantinople as the capital, and urged for the creation of five autonomous states. What are these autonomous states? Dacia (present-day Romania), Serbia, Epirus, Macedonia and Greece. This is the plan that Kapodistrias submitted to the Tsar.

Look at the opinion of the first Governor of Greece about the Roman Empire, the so-called Byzantium. This proposal of Kapodistrias was rejected by the Tsar, who went ahead with some bilingual Romans, Vlachs, Slavs, etc. and cultivated the Romanian, Bulgarian and Serbian consciences. And so we have the independent States in the Balkans to break the possibility of re-establishing the old Roman Empire.

Α.B.: Where all the nations are baptized in Christ, that is, all the nations that are Orthodox?

H.E.: Yes, that's what I want to say. I want to say that firstly, the revolutionaries, the chieftains had the sense of Romiosini, they believed in Christ, in the Church, with the Patriarchate in the center; secondly, Kapodistrias who came as the first Governor also had this consciousness and submitted this plan to the Tsar for the creation of Autonomous States with Constantinople as its capital; then John Kolettis comes in 1844 and creates the Great Idea, and there is still this Great Idea; and fourth, Otto cultivates the Great Idea, and this is the reason, many say, for which they dethroned him. Kapodistrias was also killed, because Kapodistrias had this view, to expand the new State with Constantinople as its capital. Otto who they dethroned also had the Great Idea. If you look at some books that have been published about Otto, you will see that until the end he had this view, that we should not stay in the narrow borders of Greece, but we should expand.

And then King George came as King of the Hellenes in 1863 and not simply as King of Greece, saying that you are Hellenes and those outside the territory are not Hellenes, but Greeks, and there is no need for Hellenes to be liberated, since those outside of Greece are Greeks, they are Romans.

Α.B.: When the borders are narrowed and the interests of the Great Powers are served, as we often see in history, it is repeated again and again. Sorry to interrupt, Your Eminence, we have about two minutes to conclude this discussion. You have given us many and interesting things and of course you also give us the opportunity to study, to read the facts much more, looking for them and reading from their sources.

H.E.: Yes, it is very important to read through the sources, not to do a reconstruction. Because there are some modern historians who try to deconstruct history, but we must see them through the lens of Romiosini. What was this Romiosini, and why did the foreign powers want to abolish it and create these independent States, and later dissolve it with the Asia Minor Catastrophe? What is this Romiosini? It is the Orthodox tradition with Hellenism.

Now, with the independence of the Greek State, a reality has been created, and we will not go back to the old days. So now what should we do moving forward? We must remain in this philokalic tradition, which inspired and was kept by the Romans in the Orthodox Church and in the Greek conscience. Let us remain in this tradition, in the spirit of Romiosini, let us see how we will be gathered together now and how we will live in Europe at the same time of course - no one can abolish this reality - let us also observe how in Europe there are people who have such traditions and even return to Orthodoxy, and let us examine other Romans who exist in Europe and in the East. Therefore, let us not simply dwell on the fact that we have gained our freedom, we have become a State and we are finished. These limits will remain, this is the State, the Greek State, there will be no expansion, but we must have in mind the spirit of the Revolution of 1821, the spirit of the Romans in the 400, 500 and 600 years of slavery living within the European Union and who transmit Orthodoxy, Christ and the Church.

Α.B.: We would very much like to thank you, Your Eminence, for what you have told us today, it was very interesting and I think it gives each of us a reason to see these facts again and, why not, maybe we need to start again from the beginning.

H.E.: Be well, of course no one can analyze all this in a few minutes, in any case, I just highlighted some facts.

Α.B.: You are right, Your Eminence, we could really talk a lot about this. We really want to thank you for making the most of your time. Have a nice day.

H.E.: Be well, thank you very much.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.