The historical causes of division in the diaspora

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By Anastasios M. Tamis*

Greeks are by nature curious, hospitable, ambitious, honest, enthusiastic, compassionate, extremely communicative and pacifist. However, they are also distinguished by negative traits. They remain undisciplined, rebellious, highly undisciplined. Other main negative characteristics of the Greeks include their crude antagonistic attitudes, their generic distrustful audacity, their market narcissism which cultivates racism and exaggeration and leads them to destructive egomania.

Naturally, it was their Greek antagonistic arrogance that generated democracy as a social method of coexistence. The ecclesiastic and its continuous crises and phases, the political ideology of the national divisions from the years of the Revolution to the years of the fall of the Junta and the interpretation for the resolution of our national problems (Epirus, Dodecanese, Cypriot, Macedonian) were the main foci of the fratricidal division of the Hellenism of the Diaspora.

The period of national division developed from the years of the liberation struggle, culminating in the decades 1914-1924 and the years of the infamous civil war (1944-1949), and despite the wholesome and honorable efforts of the world political, especially after 1981, it has maintained self-destructive dimensions to the present day.

The ecclesiastical problem:

From the temporal point of view, with regard to the Hellenism of Oceania, the ecclesiastical problem arises immediately after the establishment of the first Orthodox communities in 1898 (composed originally of Greek, Syrian-Lebanese and Russian faithful) and took on uncontrollable proportions after 1924, with the creation of the Greek Orthodox metropolis of Australia and New Zealand. The genesis of the problem was caused by the non-existence of an ecclesiastical authority.

Initially, the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Alexandria send the first priests. It was followed by the Autocephalous Church of Greece, until the definitive adhesion, from 1908, of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. From the day of their arrival, the appointed priests come under the jurisdiction of the Greek communities, whose sovereigns determine their administrative and salary status, like their employers. These priests, free from visible and on-site spiritual and administrative authority, themselves evolved into self-proclaimed “high priests”. Without a diocese or bishops, they were responsible to the community councils, which, however, easily guided and enjoyed an essentially clerical authority. In one or two cases there were also disagreements and disputes between the leaders of the community and their appointed clergy, but the disputes were short-lived and resolved immediately after effective mediation by the Church of Greece.

However, with the establishment of the Holy Metropolis of Australia in 1924 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the appointment of the first Metropolitan, an English-educated learned hierarch, Dr Christopher Knitis, things changed dramatically and ecclesiastical division was cultivated. in a long intra-community social and political schism.

Historically, the main and real cause of the division was the priests of the Melbourne and Sydney Communities, who felt that with the advent of the episcopal-metropolitan institution, their own unequivocal power had expired, the power exercised by the priests “administratively headless”. was now over and their political and ecclesiastical power was essentially limited. They called Metropolitan Christopher Knitis their political enemy and ecclesiastical adversary, and fought him relentlessly, dragging the leaders of the community with them. Thus, a struggle for a final and Catholic victory arose, which quickly turned into a deep schism, involving the whole community and their newspapers.

Among the Greeks, the pious, the conservatives, most of the small entrepreneurs, the “oligarchs” took the side of the Metropolis and two years later the first career diplomat appointed by Athens, the skilful Consul General Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos also joined the “Metropolitans”. The communities of Melbourne and Sydney, with their leaders and members, influenced by their priests, Reverend Kassimatis and Reverend Varaklas, turned against the Metropolitan. With them were joined the communitarians, the majority of Cytheres and Ithaques, unskilled workers, the unemployed, the “barefoot xypolitois”. The voice and the weapon of the first was the National Forum led by a former priest, the Reverend Dimitrios Marinakis, who had previously been removed from office by the Sydney Community, in order to accept, at their request, by the Church of Greece the appointment of an incompatible, almost heretic, Archimandrite Athenagoras Varaklas.

The voice of the Community and of the communitarians was the Panhellenic Herald, a radical and almost militant newspaper which was elected as the official organ of the Greek Orthodox community of NSW and the powerful Kytherian brotherhood of Australia and directed by Ioannis Dourmousoglou (John Stilson), a refugee from Asia Minor and Georgios Marcellos, a Kytherian restorer. When members of the Community of Sydney blocked the Church of the Holy Trinity to the appointed Metropolitan as persona non grata, the latter with the collaboration of the consul general, Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos and conservative businessmen, the “oligarchs” , in opposition, erected a new church, the Metropolitan Church of Saint Sophia, where the Metropolitan officiated.

The Community of Sydney renounced the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Metropolitan and was annexed to the Autocephalous Church of America, then a non-canonical ecclesiastical institution under the spiritual leadership of Metropolitan Vasileios Komvopoulos. The Patriarchate in turn condemned the Community to ecclesiastical illegitimacy, defrocked the Archimandrite Athenagoras Varaklas and declared null and void the sacraments he officiated, while the Greek State deemed them illegal and non-existent.

The intensity of this intra-community social, economic and political schism lasted at least until 1934, severely affecting Greek immigrants during the period of the Great Depression and throwing communal cultural initiatives into decline. This was followed by the beneficial intervention of reconciliation of the warring camps, by the charismatic second Metropolitan of Australia, Timotheos Evangelinidis, after the reconciliation that occurred in America in 1931 with the appointment there of the new Archbishop of America, the charismatic Athenagoras.

A long period of peace and understanding ensued, notably with the election of the third Metropolitan, Theophylactos Papathanasopoulos, a prudent and knowledgeable hierarch, who had experience of events in Australia as Patriarchal Exarch since 1928. His pastorate was the most difficult, as he maintained a thoughtful parity and balanced treatment of Greek Orthodox adherents during the crucial and antagonistic years of the Greek Civil War. After 1957 the second phase of division began, which culminated in 1960 with the excommunication of the leaders of the historic communities of Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle by the fourth Metropolitan/Archbishop Ezekiel Tsoukalas, an ascetic and devoted monk and a most conservative. hierarch.

*Professor Anastasios M. Tamis has taught at universities in Australia and overseas, was the creator and founding director of the Dardalis Archive of the Hellenic Diaspora and is currently President of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS).


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