“We are all Greeks”

Warning from the Orthodox Church of Vienna to the EU for having solidarity

The so-called "Alley of the Greeks" – close to Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity – in a remote corner of the historical centre of Vienna, recalls the centuries-long presence of Greeks and other Orthodox Christians in the Austrian capital. On Sunday, June 23, this small alley, which also houses the Orthodox church of St. George, was the scene of a solidarity Feast of the Greek-orthodox Church in Austria with this program-title: "We are all Greeks". Last year, when the Greek crisis was about to reach its peak, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Vienna Arsenios (Kardamakis) invited for the first time the town to this festival of solidarity. The purpose of these initiatives is not only collecting donations for charitable activities of the Orthodox Church in Greece. It is rather to give a sign of solidarity and respect that returns to the Greeks their dignity, which has often been neglected in the discussions on the crisis.With the Feast of Solidarity – at a very high level in terms of music and food – the Metropolitan of Vienna has found a way to overcome many prejudices, for example, that the Orthodox Church is not active as far as charity is concerned. The Metropolitan showed how impressive and effective can be the activity of the Orthodox Church, for example in the metropolitan area of Athens, where last year an information trip for journalists took place.The Metropolitan has embarked on a journey of information, immediately before the Feast of Solidarity this year, even in his homeland of Crete. On that occasion, he launched a new idea to overcome the crisis that cannot be found in technocratic projects: the Metropolitan noted that hospitality – for the Greeks the supreme value, with a strong religious background – could become the "foundation and compass" of a new ethical-spiritual orientation of our society. Through Christianity, hospitality has been deeply etched in the culture and mentality of Greece. It is strongly against any kind of nationalistic resentment and "leads to social cohesion and an awareness of life as a gift. It may become a signpost to overcome the crisis". A host-based ethics – in which hosts are well aware that they themselves are visitors on earth – is focused on the fundamental values of life: from gratitude for the simple gifts of existence to cooperation-based solidarity in society. It represents the foundations and consistency which in recent years have often faltered.The Metropolitan has defined the role of the Church vis-à-vis the crisis as follows: on the one hand the Church should "make aware of the deeper problems, because economic poverty is not the cause but the consequence of the impoverishment of man’s intellectual and spiritual dimension". In this context the Church is called to play a role of appeal and encouragement: "conversion, and a change in the content and style of life of everyone is the condition for an economic change and improvement in society". On the other hand, the Church must make an effort to reduce discomfort with her own means (and the Orthodox Church in Greece does this, just think of how many parishes ensure for free – with love and a high quality service – their daily bread to many men who have become poor.)One of the Cretan brothers in the episcopate of Metropolitan Arsenios – the director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete, Metropolitan Amphilochios (Andronikakis) – offered to the Austrian journalists a merciless analysis of the situation: "Why European funders have offered contributions to Greek politics so long and so generously, even knowing that it was not working in the right way? Why such radical fiscal consolidation measures have been imposed on the Greek people, which necessarily lead to not obtaining the approval of society nor the acceptance and recognition from interested parties? Those who today speak disparagingly of Greece but have never bothered to address the needs of so many concrete individuals, have forgotten the true foundations of Europe – its culture and civilization, its history and religion, which have their roots here".The activities of the Orthodox Metropolitan of Vienna show that the approach which has become fashionable in Central and Northern Europe vis-à-vis the crisis in the "Countries of the South", i.e. that they find themselves in such a serious condition through their own fault, should not be accepted as "collateral damage". We can "steer in the opposite direction", indeed we must, if we do not want to destroy the European identity, which has been so hardly achieved after the catastrophe of World War II.

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