September 12, 2021

Metropolitan Chrysostomos and the Tragedy of Smyrna in 1922

 By Panagiotis Melikidis

On August 27, 1922, the Kemalist troops, after breaking through the defensive line of the Greek troops in the area of Eskişehir-Afyonkarahisar-Kütahya, invaded the city of Smyrna, where the Greek element was in the majority.

Among the victims of the Turkish atrocity is the Metropolitan of Smyrna and Exarch of all Asia, Chrysostomos Kalaphatis. The martyrdom of the Hierarch is considered the culmination of the atrocities committed by the Turks against the Christian population.

On Saturday, August 27, while Chrysostomos was trying to relieve the refugees who had gathered from the interior of Central Asia in the courtyard of the Metropolitan Church of Saint Photini, he was summoned by the guard Sali Zeki, who forced him to issue a statement by which the Christians had to stay in their homes and hand over their weapons. That same night, at about 8 o'clock, he was called to present to Lieutenant General Nureddin Pasha together with the elders Tsourouktsoglou and Klimanoglou. We do not know exactly what was said between the Metropolitan and Nureddin. Most likely, the Turkish Lieutenant General blamed Chrysostomos for the attitude he held during the Greek occupation of Smyrna and for the support he provided to the Defense of Asia Minor. These acts amounted to treason against the Ottoman Empire as long as Chrysostomos was a Turkish citizen. Eyewitnesses saw Chrysostomos leave the Command post. It was then that Nureddin realized his medieval idea, to hand over the Metropolitan to the fanatical Turkish mob. He appeared on the balcony and shouted to the crowd gathered in the square that the Hierarch was theirs and that the Turkish people should judge him. R. Puaux states that before handing him over to the Turkish crowd, Nureddin said: "If he did you good, do him good, if he did you harm, do him harm." This was followed by a horrible abuse of the Metropolitan by the fanatical mob until the moment when a Turko-Cretan took pity on the Hierarch and shot him, in order to put an end to his martyrdom.

It is known to most that Chrysostomos had refused to leave with the other Greek authorities. He refused to leave even after the entry of Turkish forces into Izmir (Smyrna), while foreign diplomats were willing to help him. In fact, he was the only Greek Authority that remained in the city. Horton, the American consul, notes in the Plague of Asia: "He was offered refuge at the French Consulate and accompanied by French sailors, but refused, saying that his duty was to stay with his flock: 'I have to stay with my herd'."

It should be noted here that out of the 459 Priests of the Smyrna region, 347 died a tragic death at the hands of the Turks. Apart from Chrysostomos, other Hierarchs and Priests had a martyric end: Ambrosios Pleianthidis of Moschonisia was buried alive, Gregory of Kydonia was buried alive, Zilonas of Iconium was slaughtered, the Hierarchical Commissioner of Bouzos Archantzikakis was impaled, Deacon Gregory of the Church of Saint Anna in Kordelio was strangled, the Priest of Saint Marina in Kokargiali was covered with hot oil, the Priest Neilos of the Church of the Dormition in Bournova was hacked down, the Deacon Meletios of the Church of Evangelistria was nailed to a pine tree!

Of the 46 Churches of Smyrna and the Suburbs, only three survived in Smyrna: Saint Boukolos, Saint Constantine and Saint John the Theologian. There are 2,000 destroyed churches or those that were turned into mosques, warehouses and stables throughout Asia Minor and 800 churches in Thrace.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.