The Orthodox Patristic Teaching on “The Curse of Ham” and the Origin of Black People

NOTE: “The Curse of Ham” is a misnomer for the curse upon Canaan that was imposed by the biblical patriarch Noah. The narrative occurs in the Book of Genesis and concerns Noah’s drunkenness and the accompanying shameful act perpetrated by his son Ham the father of Canaan (Gen. 9:20–27).

Noah Dunk Mosaic

This article is not about the various terms used in Patristic and Hagiographic literature that denote an anti-Black sentiment. This article examines the racist Patristic teaching concerning the Orthodox Christian belief on where black people originate—i.e. When Noah cursed Canaan, he also cursed that God make his face black. This belief is rooted in an older Talmudic Tradition that was accepted and taught by the early Church Fathers. Essentially, Canaan, or Ham’s, white skin was changed into black through Noah’s curse. These early Patristic teachings also led to the later biblical justification of colonialism and the African slave trade, since Noah’s statement that Canaan should be the slave of Japheth and Shem was translated into blacks, or “Hamites,” should be subject to whites as a result of the “Curse of Ham” [Genesis 9:18-29].

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Though today the vast majority of those involved in research on human variation would agree that biological races do not exist among humans,1 the early Patristic texts recognized three races: the descendants of Noah’s three sons, Japheth, Shem, and Canaan. For an Orthodox Christian, “the Holy Fathers—the ‘mind of the church’—are the key to the understanding of Genesis.

Chronology of a Racist Patristic Teaching (Later writers of the non-Chalcedonian churches are also included to illustrate that this teaching is universal amongst both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches):

Icon of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church who used the writings of the Theologian Origen of Alexandria.
Icon of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church who used the writings of the Theologian Origen of Alexandria.

Origen (ca. 185-254): ―For the Egyptians are prone to a degenerate life and quickly sink to every slavery of the vices. Look at the origin of the race and you will discover that their father Cham, who had laughed at his father‘s nakedness, deserved a judgment of this kind, that his son Chanaan should be a servant to his brothers, in which case the condition of bondage would prove the wickedness of his conduct. Not without merit, therefore, does the discolored posterity imitate the ignobility of the race.2

St. Ephraim the Syrian (ca. 306 – 373): “When Noah awoke and was told what Canaan did, Noah said, ‘Cursed be Canaan and may God make his face black,’ and immediately the face of Canaan changed; so did of his father Ham, and their white faces became black and dark and their color changed.”3

The Cave of Treasures [attributed to St. Ephraim the Syrian] (4th century): Gives the explanation that Canaan’s curse was actually earned because he revived the sinful music and arts of Cain’s progeny that had been before the flood.4 “And Canaan was cursed because he had dared to do this, and his seed becamea servant of servants, that is to say, to the Egyptians, and the Cushites, and the Mûsâyê, [and theIndians, and all the Ethiopians, whose skins are black].”5

St. Ephraim the Syrian (Patron saint of Geronda Ephraim)
St. Ephraim the Syrian (Patron saint of Geronda Ephraim)

Ishodad of Merv, the Syrian Christian bishop of Hedhatha,(9th century): “When Noah cursed Canaan, ―instantly, by the force of the curse. . .his face and entire body became black [ukmotha]. This is the black color which has persisted in his descendants.”6

Eutychius, an Alexandrian Melkite patriarch, (d. 940): ― “Cursed be Ham and may he be a servant to his brothers… He himself and his descendants, who are the Egyptians, the Negroes, the Ethiopians and (it is said) the Barbari.”7

Ibn al-Tayyib, an Arabic Christian scholar, Baghdad, (d. 1043): ― “The curse of Noah affected the posterity of Canaan who were killed by Joshua son of Nun. At the moment of the curse, Canaan‘s body became black and the blackness spread out among them.”8

Bar Hebraeus, a Syrian Christian scholar, (1226–86): ― “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and showed [it] to his two brothers, That is…that Canaan was cursed and not Ham, and with the very curse he became black and the blackness was transmitted to his descendants… And he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan! A servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.’”9

Saints-of-Africa-lg

Serfdom

The curse of Ham became used as a justification for serfdom during the medieval era. Honorius Augustodunensis (c. 1100) was the first recorded to propose a caste system associating Ham with serfdom, writing that serfs were descended from Ham, nobles from Japheth, and free men from Shem.However, he also followed the earlier interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:21 by Ambrosiaster (late 4thcentury), that as servants in the temporal world, these “Hamites” were likely to receive a far greater reward in the next world than would the Japhetic nobility.10

The idea that serfs were the descendants of Ham soon became widely promoted in Europe. At the height of the medieval era, it was a significant trend in Genesis exegesis to interpret that the descendants of Ham were serfs. Dame Juliana Berners (c. 1388) in a treatise on hawks, claimed that the “churlish” descendants of Ham had settled in Europe, those of Shem in Africa, and those of Japheth in Asia—a departure from normal arrangements — because she considered Europe to be the “country of churls”, Asia of gentility, and Africa of temperance.11

As serfdom waned in the late medieval era, the interpretation of serfs beingdescendants of Ham decreased as well.12

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 Proslavery

The curse of Ham has been used to promoted race and slavery movements as early as Classical antiquity. European biblical scholars of the Middle Ages supported the view that the “sons of Ham” of Hamites were cursed, possibly “blackened” by their sins. Though early arguments to this effect were sporadic, they became increasingly common during the slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries.13

The justification of slavery itself through the sins of Ham was well suited to the ideological interests of the elite; with the emergence of the slave trade, its racialized version justified the exploitation of a ready supply of African labour.

In the parts of Africa where Christianity flourished in the early days, while it was still illegal in Rome, this idea never took hold, and its interpretation of scripture was never adopted by the African Coptic Churches. A modern Amharic commentary on Genesis notes the 19th century and earlier European theory that blacks were subject to whites as a result of the “curse of Ham”, but calls this a false teaching unsupported by the text of the Bible, emphatically pointing out that this curse fell not upon all descendants of Ham but only on the descendants of Canaan, and asserting that it was fulfilled when Canaan was occupied by both Semites (Israel) and Japethites (ancient Philistines). The commentary further notes that Canaanites ceased to exist politically after the Third Punic War (149 BC), and that their current descendants are thus unknown and scattered among all peoples.14

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NOTES:

  1. In 1950, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued a statement asserting that all humans belong to the same species and that “race” is not a biological reality but a myth. This was a summary of the findings of an international panel of anthropologists, geneticists, sociologists, and psychologists. Today the vast majority of those involved in research on human variation would agree that biological races do not exist among humans. Among those who study the subject, who use and accept modern scientific techniques and logic, this scientific fact is as valid and true as the fact that the earth is round and revolves around the sun. http://www.newsweek.com/there-no-such-thing-race-283123
  2. Homilies on Genesis 16.1.
  3. Paul de Lagarde. Materialien zur Kritik und Geschichte des Pentateuchs,(Leipzig, 1867), part II.
  4. This sentiment also appears in the later Syriac Book of the Bee (1222).
  5. Cave of Treasures, E. Wallis Budge translation from Syriac.
  6. C. Van Den Eynde, Corpus scriptorium Christianorum orientalium 156, Scriptores Syri 75(Louvain, 1955), p. 139.
  7. Patrologiae cursus completes…series Graeca, ed. J.P. Migne (Paris, 1857 –66), Pococke‘s (1658–59) translation of the Annales, 111.917B (sec. 41-43)7)
  8. Joannes C.J. Sanders, Commentaire sur la Genèse, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium274-275, Scriptores Arabici 24-25 (Louvain, 1967), 1:56 (text), 2:52-55 (translation).
  9. Sprengling and Graham, Barhebraeus‘ Scholia on the Old Testament, pp. 40 – 41, to Gen 9:22.
  10. Paul H. Freedman, 1999,  Images of the mediaeval peasant  p. 291; Whitford 2009 pp. 31-34.13)
  11. Whitford 2009 p. 38.14)
  12. David Mark Whitford (21 October 2009). The curse of Ham in the early modern era: the Bible and the justifications for slavery. .Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. p. 173.ISBN978-0-7546-6625-7.  Retrieved 15 September 2011.15)
  13. Benjamin Braude, “The Sons of Noah and the Construction of Ethnic and Geographical Identitiesin the Medieval and Early Modern Periods, “William and Mary Quarterly LIV (January 1997):103 – 142. See also William McKee Evans, “From the Land of Canaan to the Land of Guinea: TheStrange Odyssey of the Sons of Ham,”American Historical Review 85 (February 1980): 15 – 4316)
  14. Commentary on Genesis) p. 133-142.

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Anti-Black Sentiment in the Vitae Patrum (Philip Mayerson, 1978)

NOTE: The following article is excerpted from The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 71, No. 3/4 (Jul. – Oct., 1978), pp. 304-311. It is an important article as it sheds light on why anti-Black sentiment exists amongst some of the monastics in the Greek monasteries here and why racial slurs are used freely in the monasteries. Besides, Geronda Ephraim named one of his cats “Arapis” while he was with Elder Joseph the Hesychast on Mt. Athos. “Arapis” is the Greek equivalent to the English derogatory word “nigger.” There have been black pets, or animals with large amounts of black color, at St. Anthony’s (AZ), St. Nektarios (NY), Holy Protection (PA), etc. that have been named Arapis by the Abbots/Abbesses. Though Fr. Vasileios was never called Arapis by the other monks (probably due to the respect factor of being an older father from Filotheou Monastery), lay people did refer to him by that racial slur amongst themselves and behind his back. However, after Mathaios and other African Americans started to become novices at St. Anthony’s Monastery, “Arapis” was used freely by certain monks behind their backs when referring to them. This also extends to other non-white cultures. It is said that at St. Nektarios Monastery, before Geronda Joseph secretly baptized the Woo family (who were of Asian descent), he mocked them to his monks during a homily, saying, “You know, the Woos” (simultaneously slanting his eyes with his fingers and making a laughing expression with his front teeth exposed. It is said that all the monks were roaring in laughter except Novice Vasileios Datch (now Fr. Panteleimon) who knew the family from when he lived in DC and Hieromonk Michael Santos (who is also of Asian descent). As well, some Orthodox monastics believe that Black people originated from Noah’s curse: i.e. when Ham (or Canaan depending on text) were cursed, God turned them Black. This teaching later was also the reason used to justify the African slave trade: When  Noah condemned and cursed Ham in the person of his son Canaan, he said that his offspring would be in slavery to the offspring of his brothers).

"Arapis" the black cat at St. Anthony's Monastery, AZ.
“Arapis” the black cat at St. Anthony’s Monastery, AZ.

Upon looking into the various editions of the Vitae Patrum, 1 this writer has come upon expressions of anti-black (i.e., Ethiopian or “Indian”) sentiment in the early monastic communities of Egypt (third to fifth centuries). The evidence is not one of highly articulated prejudice; on the other hand, it is neither overly subtle nor subliminal

A closer reading of some of the episodes in the life of this Desert Father [Moses the Ethiopian] will show, I believe, that he was abused and subjected to discriminatory treatment because of the color of his skin. On one occasion Moses openly declares himself to be inferior to his white brothers because he is black. In the Vitae Patrum these episodes are cited as examples of the black monk’s humility and fortitude, qualities which earned for him a distinguished place in the annals of the Desert Fathers. But these incidents, regardless of how they were interpreted by the compilers of the Vitae Patrum, are clear evidence of anti-black sentiment.

St. Moses the Ethiopian
St. Moses the Ethiopian

Abba Moses is the sole black among the Desert Fathers about whom we have any biographical information. The other blacks that are cited in the Vitae Pat rum are demons or devils. These, as far as I know, have not entered into any discussion regarding the attitude of early Christians towards Ethiopians or blacks. It is true that in imagery “blackness”was associated with the darker side of human nature. But as far as demons go, the Desert Fathers, who encountered multitudes of them, never characterize them by color or race with the exception of those comparatively few that are cited as Ethiopian or black. Specifically citing a demon as black or as an Ethiopian must surely indicate a sentiment among some unlettered and theologically uninformed monks that black was not always beautiful.

With regard to   Abba Moses, the evidence for the prejudicial treatment he received at the hands of his fellow monks or clerics is contained in four incidents. Moses is either insulted, treated with contempt, “tested,” or reviled; he was subjected to treatment of a kind that was not inflicted upon other monks, even those of a lesser reputation for ascetical good works.

Geronda Ephraim has named his black cats "Arapis" (the Greek equivalent to the slur "nigger")
Geronda Ephraim has named his black cats “Arapis” (the Greek equivalent to the slur “nigger”)

The clearest instance of color prejudice occurs on an occasion when the Fathers were gathered together, and because certain people wished to see Abba Moses, they treated him with contempt, saying, “Why does this Ethiopian come and go among us?” When Moses heard this he held his peace. And when the congregation was dismissed, they (the certain people?) said to him, “Abba Moses, were you not afraid?” And he said to them, “Although I was afraid, I did not say a word.”

The above is adapted with very little change from the Syriac version. The Greek text of the same incident makes no mention of “certain people wishing to see Abba Moses,” but that “the Fathers, wishing to test him, treated him as an object of contempt, saying, ‘Why does this Ethiopian come into our midst?’ Later when the congregation was dismissed, they (the Fathers?) asked him, ‘Abba, were you not in any way upset?’ He replied, ‘I was upset, but I did not speak.”‘

A similar, if not the same, incident is reported in the Syriac Vitae Patrum under the rubric of “Questions and Answers on the Ascetic Rule.” In this instance it is “certain men” who revile Abba Moses. The purpose in recalling the incident is to interpret the words of the monk’s reply: “Although I was troubled, yet I said nothing” The conclusion that is reached is that although Moses had demonstrated spiritual excellence in maintaining silence and in not showing his inner anger, he had not attained the perfect state of impassibility (apatheia?) by being angry neither inwardly nor outwardly.

Troy Polamalu, a Samoan spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim.
Troy Polamalu, a Samoan spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim.

Abba Moses is subjected to two more”tests”at a time when he was an old man and had become a member of the clergy. The two incidents are combined in the Syriac and Latin systematic collections to illustrate the virtue of humility. The translation of the Syriac text is as follows:

They used to say that when Abba Moses was one of the clergy he wore a long outer garment, and that the Bishop said unto him, “Behold , thou art wholly white, 0 Abba Moses.” The old man said unto him, “Is the Pappa within or without?” And again wishing to try him, the Bishop said unto the clergy, “When Abba Moses goeth into the sacrarium drive him out, and go after him and hear what he saith.” Now when he went into the sacrarium they rebuked him and drove him out, saying, “Get outside, 0 Ethiopian”; and having gone forth he began to say to himself , “They have treated thee rightly , 0 thou whose skin is dark and black ; thou shalt not go back as if thou wert a [white] man .””

The Greek text of the alphabetical collection does not differ substantially from the Syriac or Latin versions, but the impact of the treatment that Moses receives at the hands of the Bishop (or Archbishop) and his fellow clerics can be felt more strongly.

It is said of Abba Moses that when he became a member of the clergy and had been invested with the ephod, the Archbishop said to him, “See, Abba Moses, you have become entirely white.” The old man said to him, “Outwardly, Lord and Father; am I also so inwardly?” Wishing to test him, the Archbishop said to the clergy, “Whenever Abba Moses comes into the sanctuary, drive him out and follow him so that you may hear what he says. The old man came in and they abused him and drove him out saying, “Get out, Ethiopian!” He went out and said to himself, “They have treated you properly, you soot-skinned black! Since you’re not a man, why should you come into the company of men.”

However much these episodes were viewed in the past as demonstrations of Abba Moses’s humility, they were also deliberate acts of humiliation directed against the man because of the color of his skin.

Hieromonk Michael Santos, a Filipino convert. Geronda Ephraim use to refer to him as "the Chinaman."
Hieromonk Michael Santos, a Filipino convert. Geronda Ephraim use to refer to him as “the Chinaman.”

There can be no question but that the use of the word “Ethiopian” in these contexts is strongly deprecatory and is the equivalent of the most offensive word used against blacks in American society. The demoralizing effect that this treatment had upon Abba Moses understandably results in his denigrating appraisal of himself:”… you soot-skinned black! Since you’re not a man, why should you come into the company of men” He of course means “in the company of white men.” Further, the remark made by the Bishop, gratuitous at best, that Moses had become completely white because of his ephod stirs a hostile reaction within the black monk. His rejoinder-if it is accurately reported -is oblique yet pointed; he says in effect: “It seems that I am completely white outside because of my ephod, but do you think that I am completely white inside as well, and hence in every respect like you?”

The first grey tabby at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) was named Arapi.
The first grey tabby at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) was named Arapi.

Whereas Abba Moses is attacked because of the color of his skin, black demons-or even the devil himself in the form of a black -attack the monks as they strive to attain spiritual and moral perfection. These black demons appear in the form of a woman, a man, or as young boys. Four of the seven instances cited in the Vitae Patrum represent demons of fornication or lust; the others represent arrogance or pride, disobedience, and distracting thoughts. The brief narratives that follow are so explicit in characterizing black or Ethiopian spirits as evil that they hardly require further commentary.

Saints of Africa

The rest of the article recounts numerous stories from the Vitae Patrum concerning demons appearing as Ethiopians or Blacks to the Desert Faters.

The Top Conspiracy Theories Among Greeks

NOTE: The following article is taken from a now defunct website, Handling Greek Life.

In 2001/2002, the AZ monks  were passing around American Free Press newspapers explaining 9/11 as a Mossad/CIA psy-ops.
In 2001/2002, the AZ monks were passing around American Free Press newspapers explaining 9/11 as a Mossad/CIA psy-ops.

Greeks love them.  They live and breathe conspiracies.  The countless magazines on extra-terrestrial life, mysteries of life etc confirm the thirst of the Greeks for such subjects.  Not to mention TV shows such as those of Mr. Hardavela (not on any longer) and Mr. Liakopoulos.  Here’s a list of the most prominent conspiracies whose existence most Greeks take for granted:

“All Jews are rich and they control the world.”

Anti-Semitic Cartoon from Greek Newspaper
Anti-Semitic Cartoon from Greek Newspaper

This is one of many world-domination theories where the Jews are responsible for all things happening in the world.  The richest men in the world are Jews, they say, and even if they’re not, they are controlled by them.  They’re behind everything.  You name it:  wars, diseases, literature and art that the Orthodox Church does not approve of… it’s all their fault.  They’re trying to brainwash everyone.  I guess many Greeks imagine the most powerful Jews in the world getting together at meetings in order to determine what their next step will be towards world and religious domination.

Rothschild Cartoons. By North Utsire
Rothschild Cartoons. By North Utsire

[NOTE: In the monasteries, many monastics learn about “The Synagogue of Satan” and the secret history of “Jewish world domination” either directly from the superior and other monastics, or through the homilies they have on their iPods].

“Globalization – A New World Order”

Gary H. Kah's book made the rounds in the monasteries shortly after 9/11.
Gary H. Kah’s book made the rounds in the monasteries shortly after 9/11.

For some reason, the word “globalization” has very negative connotations among the common Greek.  For them, it means loss of national identity and, on a practical level, loss of job positions.  They get more imaginative than this, however.  Organizations such as the Masons and the Bilderburg Group push their agenda to powerful governments around the world, they say.  After all, the members of such groups are presidents of countries, tycoons, and media owners:  a mixture of people that can manipulate public opinion to serve their own interests.  The secrecy of such groups exert a kind of mysticism that’s enchanting to the average Greek.

Geronda Paisios would also talk about the Committee of 300 as a hidden hand in the New World Order.
Geronda Paisios would also talk about the Committee of 300 as a hidden hand in the New World Order.

[NOTE: Globalization/N.W.O. conspiracy theories are truth and not “theories” for many of the monastics as it falls in line with their worldview that the Jews will bring in the Antichrist as the one world leader 3 1/2 years before the world ends, i.e. the Second Coming. https://archive.org/details/EnRouteToGlobalOccupation]

“Everyone is after Greece.”

Demetrius-the-Mason

The Albanians, the Slavs in FYROM, and the Turks are all after pieces of land in Greece.  Some maps from Albania show the “Albanian Dream,” which is the extension of their country the whole way down to Preveza.  Skopia, on the other hand, give out maps where their country extends to include all of Macedonia down to Halkidiki and Thessaly.  Of course, the Turks are the lifelong enemy… who knows what they’re after.

[NOTE: Geronda Paisios has said that the Zionists revealed a map of what the future State of Israel will look like: It includes Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, etc. He also stated that the Israelis plant false Judaic artifacts in Cyprus so they can later “find” them in archeological digs and have a claim to Cyprus].

An excerpt from a speech made by H. Kissinger in 1974 keeps feeding the fire of this conspiracy until today:

kissinger

The Greek people are anarchic and difficult to tame. For this reason we must strike deep into their cultural roots: Perhaps then we can force them to conform. I mean, of course, to strike at their language, their religion, their cultural and historical reserves, so that we can neutralize their ability to develop, to distinguish themselves, or to prevail; thereby removing them as an obstacle to our strategically vital plans in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

Kissinger-and-Makarios-512x300

The leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church (as an institution), being a vital part of Greek history and conscience, feel that these “strikes” are directed towards them.  So, when there’s any talk or action towards the separation of state and church in this country, they start talking about conspiracies to break down the spirit of the average Greek and to annihilate this country’s history.  Therefore, several old-timers in Greece have linked the meddling of the Greek Church in state affairs with the survival of the Nation.

masonoi patriarxes

[NOTE: In the monasteries, many monastics learn about the long lineage of Ecumenical Patriarchs who were Freemasons, as well as other hierarchs and priests, especially here in America–i.e. Archbishop Iakovos, Metropolitan Evangelos, etc. Furthermore, there’s also AHEPA and other Greek masonic organizations that are frowned upon as working to destroy the Church from within. Kissinger is regarded as a war criminal, and his words are still repeated today in regards to Greece and “everything the dark powers are doing to cripple the nation.”].

“It’s in the air, the water… the fruits of the earth”

Chemtrail conspiracy theories are held as fact by many monastics.
Chemtrail conspiracy theories are held as fact by many monastics.

The masterminds of the world have decided to control us with chemicals that they inject in the water supply.  All of the fruit and vegetables are “poisoned” with pesticides that limit our intelligence and make us easy targets for a bombardment of propaganda.  Let’s not forget the white streaks in the air.  Haven’t you noticed airplanes spraying us with chemicals that leave long lines in the sky to make us dumber?  And all of those new viruses such as the swine flu and bird flu a few years ago… Everyone knows they were purposely released to reduce the earth’s population.

While the ring around Athos during Geronda Markellos' funeral was said to be a miracle by some, Geronda Paisios said it was a chemtrail because they knew all the monks would be gathered in one place.
While the ring around Athos during Geronda Markellos’ funeral was said to be a miracle by some, Geronda Paisios said it was a chemtrail because they knew all the monks would be gathered in one place.

Hmmm… to be honest, I believe, too, that the bird and swine flu scares are just ways to spread panic and for pharmaceuticals to make billions of dollars or euros.  Does that make me susceptible to conspiracies?  Or does it make me more open to the “truth”?  The view always differs, depending on where you’re standing.  “Truth, after all, wears a different face to everybody, and it would be too tedious to wait till all were agreed” (James Russell Lowell, American poet, critic, editor).

[NOTE: Many of the monks who fell ill with “Valley Fever” in Arizona had the reason explained thus: “The government purposely targets the monasteries with chemtrails. So, when the monks are digging in the desert, they dug up the chems/virus and made it airborne, breathed it in, and became sick.” This is one of the many ways the government has targeted the monasteries. The “dark powers do not want the monasteries here in America as they are a threat to the advancement of their plans. As well, thousands of people, who would of lost their souls if the monasteries weren’t here, are now being saved.”].

SOURCE: https://web.archive.org/web/20121220102356/http://www.allthegreeks.com/everyday-life/407-the-top-conspiracy-theories-among-greeks.html

A dark scene inside a Masonic Temple in Greece. The human sacrifice lays straddled as a five point star on the altar. (Archim. Vasiopoulou, Jewish Masonry Unmasked, p. 181)
A dark scene inside a Masonic Temple in Greece. The human sacrifice lays straddled as a five point star on the altar. (Archim. Vasiopoulou, Jewish Masonry Unmasked, p. 181)

Greek Orthodox Priests Bless Office of Increasingly Popular Racist Party (Matthew Feeney, 2012)

NOTE: This article is taken from Reason, October 29, 2012. In addition to the offices in Corinth, at least four dioceses (Chalkis Mesogaias, Korinthias, Patras) in towns such as Chalkis (9/25/2011), Loutsa (11/20/2011), Nemea (4/1/2012), Kato Axaya (4/29 / 2012) respectively received similar orthodox blessings too.

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The current economic situation in Greece has prompted a resurgence in nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric. Golden Dawn, the Greek neo-nazi party, has enjoyed electoral successes. In May 2012 the party won twenty-one seats. In the most recent election Golden Dawn lost three seats, meaning that they now have 18 seats less than a year after starting with none.

Since enjoying recent success Golden Dawn has done little to establish a professional reputation. Its members have assaulted political officials on TV, read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion aloud in parliament, held Greek-only food handouts, organized Greek-only blood banks, and demanded landmines on the borders.

psaras

Recent polling shows that Golden Dawn is enjoying 14 percent support, despite having only received almost seven percent of the national vote at the most recent election in June. This level of support makes Golden Dawn the third most popular party in Greece. Some of Golden Dawn’s popularity is a reflection of dissatisfaction with the current Greek government, with 81 percent of polled Greeks saying that the country is on the wrong track.

Some members of the Greek Orthodox church are now showing support, with priests blessing a new Golden Dawn office in Corinth.

Pegsus and Swastika, Silver Stater of Corinth c. 550-500 BC
Pegsus and Swastika, Silver Stater of Corinth c. 550-500 BC

http://reason.com/blog/2012/10/29/greek-orthodox-priests-bless-offices-of

Priest Blesses Golden Dawn Offices in Corinth:

Orthodox priests bless the new offices of Golden Dawn in the Greek city of Corinth. Present were four Golden Dawn MPs (Stathis Boukouras, Ilias Panagiotaros, Ilias Kasidaris and Michalis Arvanitis) and a few hundred party members, supporters and bystanders. The blessing took place on Ochi Day, when Greeks remember the entry of their country into the Second World War

Greek Metropolitan Bishop says neo-Nazis are the people’s hope (ROMEA, 2012)

NOTE: The following article is taken from ROMEA, October 29, 2012: 

Nikos Michaloliákos, leader of the Greek party Golden Dawn, now seated in parliament
Nikos Michaloliákos, leader of the Greek party Golden Dawn, now seated in parliament

A leading representative of the Greek Orthodox church, Metropolitan Bishop Ambrosios of Kalavryta, shocked the public yesterday by calling the neo-Nazis in the Golden Dawn party the “sweet hope” of the people. Online Greek news server newsit.gr called the statements of the clergyman symptoms of insanity.

Many other Greek news servers noticed that Ambrosios had praised the neo-Nazis for their recent violent disruption of a theater performance depicting Jesus Christ and his disciples as gay. In his view, the extremists had protected the pure name of Jesus with their violence.

Ambrosios also criticized the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), the largest opposition group in the Greek Parliament, for claiming the Metropolitan Bishop was enthusiastically preparing to bless a Golden Dawn office. He denied any such intention and charged SYRIZA with recruiting masked assailants for violent anti-government demonstrations who “plunged Athens into flames.” He did not forget to mention opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, who was married through a civil ceremony only instead of holding a church wedding as is still the tradition in Greece, for the most part.

Bishop Amvrosios
Bishop Amvrosios

Greece now faces neo-Nazi demonstrations and support for them from various quarters. Justified concerns are growing that the police are linked to the neo-Nazis because authorities are doing little to intervene against their racist attacks, which are becoming increasingly daring.

The BBC’s online news server has reported that a Greek MP with the extremist party estimates that 50 – 60 % of police staff support Golden Dawn. “Greek society is prepared, even though no one likes it, for battle. This is a new kind of civil war,” Greek MP Ilias Panagiotaros has claimed. He otherwise makes a living selling personal security paraphernalia, including face masks and t-shirts glorifying football violence.

The BBC reports that similar opinions are widespread in the country and says Panagiotaros’s actions speak louder than his words. Last week it was he who led the demonstration that violently halted the theatrical performance of “Corpus Christi” by American playwright Terence McNally, who depicts Jesus and his apostles as gays in the drama. Panagiotaros was captured on camera shouting homophobic, racist slogans.

Ancient Greek gold disk with swastikas at Greece’s Otagon Museum dates to the 8th century B.C.
Ancient Greek gold disk with swastikas at Greece’s Otagon Museum dates to the 8th century B.C.

Director Vasilis Laertis called police for help, but they did not intervene. “This was the Greek Kristallnacht,” he said, referring to the Nazis’ anti-Jewish pogroms. He also said members of Golden Dawn had telephoned his mother and threatened to send her a package containing her son’s body in pieces. “I want to know whether we are living in a democracy or a dictatorship,” he said.

The BBC reports that similar activities by other ultra-right MPs have also been documented. One led a group against foreign-born stallkeepers in the Athens suburb of Rafin, while another rescued one of his arrested party colleagues from the custody of police officers.

Panagiotaros says Golden Dawn’s aim is to provoke the authorities to do their jobs. The name of the party is said to carry such weight that immigrants – who according to Panagiotaros are all in Greece illegally – reportedly leave town when they hear party members are heading their way. Police are also said to be prepared in places where there is a risk the neo-Nazis might turn up.

Since the last elections, in which Golden Dawn won 7 % of the vote, the numbers of those favoring the party have notably risen – allegedly as many as 12 % of the population support them, making them the country’s third-favorite party. Police alone allegedly favor the party to an even more marked degree. Panagiotaros claims that more than half of police officers are party adherents and also form an essential portion of his business clientele.

Amvrosios

Anarchists have been trying to face down Golden Dawn, which profiles itself as anti-leftist. During one confrontation between the two groups, police patrols on motorcycles intervened and arrested 15 people. Those detained were allegedly subjected to beatings and humiliation in police cells and threatened with further persecution by Golden Dawn. The authorities, however, deny any inhuman treatment has been committed by police and say proof of this is that no complaints have been filed against them.

Czech Press Agency, jab, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

http://www.romea.cz/en/news/greek-metropolitan-bishop-says-neo-nazis-are-the-people-s-hope

 

Church of Greece split over role of neofascist Golden Dawn party (Apostolos Lakasas, 2012)

NOTE: The following article is taken from Ekathimerini, November 8, 2012:

Archbishop Ieronymos
Archbishop Ieronymos

Archbishop Ieronymos faces a serious challenge as the leadership of the Church of Greece appears deeply split on a range of significant issues including the role of the ultranationalist Golden Dawn party and the debt-wracked country’s bailout agreement.

Some of Ieronymos’s decisions appear to have been influenced by pressure from other senior clerics, a number of whom like to portray him as an apologist for the so-called New World Order.

Sources close to Ieronymos say that some of his recent comments – such as his recent criticism of the memorandum when he said that Greeks are “victims of all-out usury” – have been the result of outside pressure.

Bishop Amvrosios of Kalavryta
Bishop Amvrosios of Kalavryta

Meanwhile, other leading clerics, spearheaded by Bishop Amvrosios of Kalavryta and Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus, have made no secret of their support for Golden Dawn.

Seraphim has often spoken out in public against Jews and homosexuals. For his part, Amvrosios recently called on Golden Dawn officials to change their style so as to boost their ratings.

In the opposite corner are Bishop Pavlos of Siatista and Bishop Chrysostomos of Messinia, along with a number of other clerics. Pavlos was the main rapporteur of a Holy Synod circular that criticized the memorandum. He recently made the headlines by attacking Greece’s neofascist party in a speech where he stressed that the ideas of Golden Dawn and the teachings of the Gospel are “in direct contradiction and mutually exclusive.” Several bishops followed his example.

Observers say the mild-mannered Ieronymos will find it hard to find any middle ground between the two sides and at the same time administer Church finances which have been seriously dented by the declining value of National Bank shares and other assets.

Swastika on a Minoan pottery piece from Crete.
Swastika on a Minoan pottery piece from Crete.

“The archbishop has had to grapple with the beasts, which is out of character,” said an unnamed source, who added that many people wished he possessed the communication skills of the late Archbishop Christodoulos – if not his political ambitions.

“He knows that the more conservative albeit charismatic Bishop Nikolaos of Mesogaia is lurking around the corner. He wants to distance himself from the extremists, without engaging in direct confrontation with them. He is a low-key individual who despises conflict.”

Nevertheless, a section of Greece’s religious leaders want to stop Golden Dawn from using the Orthodox religion and popular religious sentiment as a means of extracting political capital from the electorate. Several are making steps to reinforce the Church’s social mission while a number of issues – such as ending state control over Church property that could be used to create a fund for weaker social groups – still remain unresolved.

Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus
Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus

http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_08/11/2012_469127

Nationalism in Greek Orthodoxy (Sir Steven Runciman, 1968)

NOTE: The following is an excerpt from the book, The Great Church in Captivity:

The Great Church in Captivity

In the East money making has never, as it was in the feudally minded West, been considered to be incompatible with aristocracy. A moneyed nobility began to emerge among the Greeks, closely knit by common aim and interests and by intermarriage, but open to newcomers. These rich families were ambitious. Authority among the Greeks was in the hands of the Patriarch. It therefore became their object to control the Patriarchate. Calling themselves “Archontes” of the Greek nation, they built their houses in the Phanar quarter of Constantinople, to be close to the Patriarchal buildings. They obtained for their sons positions in the Patriarchal court; and one by one the high offices of the Great Church passed into lay hands. Their members did not enter the Church itself. That was considered to be beneath their dignity. The bishops and the Patriarch himself continued to be drawn mainly from bright boys of humbler classes who had risen through intelligence and merit. But by the end of the seventeenth century the Phanariot families, as they were usually called, dominated the central organization of the Church…. But the Patriarchate could not do without them; for they were in a position both to pay its debt and to intrigue in its favor at the Sublime Porte. (Pgs. 361-362)

Sir Steven Runciman
Sir Steven Runciman

It was good for the Church to have to meet an intellectual challenge; but the challenge was too abrupt. The strength of the Byzantine Church had been the presence of a highly educated laity that was deeply interested in religion. Now the laity began to despise the traditions of the Church; and the traditional elements in the Church began to mistrust and dislike modern education, retreating to defend themselves into a thickening obscurantism. The cleavage between the intellectuals and the traditionalists, which had begun when Neo-Aristotelianism was introduced into the curriculum of the Patriarchal Academy, grew wider. Under Phanariot influence many of the higher ecclesiastics followed the modernist trend. In the old days Orthodoxy had preferred to concentrate on eternal things and modestly to refuse to clothe the faith in trappings of modish philosophy. The Phanariots in their desire to impress the West had no use for such old-fashioned notions. Instead, seeing the high prestige of ancient Greek learning, they wished to show that they were, by culture as well as by blood, the heirs of ancient Greece. Their sons, lively laymen educated in the new style, were now filling the administrative posts at the Patriarchal court. As a result the Patriarchate began to lose touch with the great body of the faithful, to whom faith meant more than philosophy and the Christian saints more than the sophist of pagan times.

Sir Steven Runciman Street in Sofia, Bulgaria
Sir Steven Runciman Street in Sofia, Bulgaria

Above all, the Phanariots needed the support of the Church in the pursuits of the ultimate political aim. It was no mean aim. The Megali Idea, the Great Idea of the Greeks, can be traced back to the days before the Turkish conquest…With the spread of the Renaissance a respect for the old Greek civilization had become general. It was natural that the Greeks, in the midst of their political disasters, should wish to benefit from it. They might be slaves now to the Turks, but they were of the great race that had civilized Europe. It must be their destiny to rise again. The Phanariots tried to combine the nationalistic forces of Hellenism in a passionate if illogical alliance with the ecumenical traditions of Byzantium and the Orthodox Church. They worked for a restored Byzantium, a New Rome that should be Greek, a new center of Greek civilization that should embrace the Orthodox world. The spirit behind the Great Idea was a mixture of neo-Byzantinism and an acute sense of race. But with the trend of the modern world the nationalism began to dominate the ecumenicity. George Scholarius Gennadius had perhaps unconsciously, foreseen the danger when he answered a question about his nationality by saying that he would not call himself a Hellene though he was a Hellene by race, not a Byzantine though he had been born at Byzantium, but, rather, a Christian, that is, an Orthodox. For, if the Orthodox Church was to retain its spiritual force, it must remain ecumenical. It must not become a purely Greek Church.

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The price paid by the Church for its subjection to the Phanariot benefactors was heavy. First, it meant that the Church was run more and more in the interests of the Greek people and not of Orthodoxy as a whole. The arrangement made between the Conquering Sultan and the Patriarch Gennadius had put all the Orthodox Church within the Ottoman Empire under the authority of the Patriarchate, which was inevitably controlled by Greeks. (Pgs. 377-379)

If any Orthodox Palestinian wished for advancement he had to learn Greek and entirely identify himself with Greek interests; and the Patriarch (of Jerusalem) himself spent much of his time at Constantinople or in the Principalities. The Greeks were not prepared to let this luscious plum fall into other hands. Yet it is doubtful whether in the long run the Greek nationalism that was being increasingly infused into the whole Orthodox organization was beneficial to Orthodoxy. It was not in the old Byzantine tradition. Though within the Empire itself a knowledge of Greek was necessary fro any official position, there had been no distinction of race; and the Byzantines had encouraged vernacular liturgies and had been cautious in trying to impose a Greek hierarchy upon other peoples. But the Great Idea encouraged the Greeks to think of themselves as a Chosen People; and chosen peoples are seldom popular, nor do they fit well into Christian life.

runciman02

This attempt to turn the Orthodox Church into an exclusively Greek Church was one of the outcomes of Phanariot policy. It lead also to a decline in spiritual values, by stressing Greek culture as against Orthodox traditions and seeking to turn the Church into a vehicle of nationalist feeling, genuine and democratic up to a point, but little concerned with the spiritual life. At the same time it place the Patriarchate on the horns of a moral dilemma. It involved the Church in politics, and subversive politics. Was it not the duty of the Church to render unto Caesar the things which were Caesar’s? Could a Patriarch justifiably jettison the agreement reached between the Sultan and his great predecessor Gennaidus? Could he abjure the oath that he had sworn to the Sultan when his election was confirmed? On a more practical level, had he the right to indulge in plots which if they failed would undoubtedly subject his flock to ghastly reprisals? The more thoughtful hierarchs could not lightly support revolutionary nationalism. Yet if they failed to join in the movement from a sense of honor or from prudence or from spiritually minded detachment, they would be branded as traitors to Hellenism. The Church would lose its hold over the livelier and more progressive elements of his congregation. The rebirth of Greece was to involve a gallows erected at the gate of the Patriarchate and a Patriarch’s corpse swinging thereon. (pp. 382-384)

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http://reasonradionetwork.com/programs/the-orthodox-nationalist
http://reasonradionetwork.com/programs/the-orthodox-nationalist