Metropolitan Methodios: Remarks on the Feast of the Annunciation and Greek Independence Day


We pause today as we do every year to reflect upon the Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary and the anniversary of the rebirth of the Greek Nation, the rebirth of democracy in the land where democracy was conceived. We pause to honor those heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives so that they could live in a democratic society where their human dignity and right to equality could be respected.

It was not simply a coincidence that the Greek Revolution was associated with the religious Feast of the Annunciation which inaugurated the emancipation of the human spirit. The Annunciation which was the joyful news that God would become man in the womb of the Virgin for the salvation of the world.

We mystically stand before the icon of the Annunciation to recall the heroic annunciation voiced by Bishop Germanos of Patra. It was he who raised the banner bearing the motto “liberty or death” which became the honored symbol of the revolution.

The first revolutionaries knew well that they were vastly outnumbered. They firmly believed however that the reality in which they lived would be reversed by Divine intervention---by powers beyond human measure. They were imbued by the hymn they chanted, referring to the Annunciation of the Virgin, “When God so wishes said the bodiless Angel, the order of nature is overcome, what is beyond man comes to pass.”

The Revolution of 1821 was in essence and in fact a miracle. A miracle of Faith in Him Who said, “All things are possible to those who have faith” (Mt. 9,23). The Revolution of 1821 was a belief in what is treasured in the First Epistle of St. John, “this is how we win the victory over the world---with our faith” (1 John, 5,4). Emblazoned by that faith, the Greek revolutionaries rose against a powerful and mighty tyrant that enslaved them for more than 400 years. The yoke of tyranny crumbled under the overpowering strength of their faith.

This year, our March 25 celebrations have been dedicated to our brethren who live in Turkey and who yearn for their own annunciation. The good news that the Patriarchal theological School located on the Island of Halki will be re-opened by the Turkish government.

For more than 127 years, Halki nurtured men of merit, educators and scholars. It was closed in 1971 by Turkish authorities under a law requiring that higher education in religion and military training be controlled by the State of Turkey. This theological school is the one and only such seminary preparing clergy for service in the Church in all of Turkey. The School treasures one of the richest libraries in the world in rare and precious works. The closing of the School in 1971 deprived the Ecumenical Patriarchate the means to educate its clergy, a right enjoyed by Turkish citizens of the Muslim Faith. This is a clear injustice and a complete disrespect of human freedom and religious tolerance.

The issue of Halki is an essential one for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is a matter of necessity for the renewal of the clergy at our ecclesiastical centre at the Phanar, of the communities in Constantinople, and of the eparchial dioceses of the patriarchal throne abroad which include Crete and the Dodecanese islands, Western Europe and other parts of the world where the last graduates of Halki are still actively ministering.

We want Halki to operate again just as it did until 1971. Since it will operate on Turkish soil, there will be some supervision from the Turkish Ministry of Education. This does not disturb the Patriarchate in the least, because it has nothing to hide. Halki was always administered in a manner that was transparent, far from politics and under the umbrella, protection, and financial support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

By reopening Halki, Turkey would demonstrate to the world that there is indeed freedom of religion in Turkey. It will show that the rights of minorities are respected. One will see that, just as Muslim Turkish citizens can have their theological schools throughout the country to train those who undertake a religious mission, so too can the Orthodox Christians who live there and have the same citizenship, will be able to educate their clergy.

Something can and should be done! Under no circumstances should Turkey be permitted to discriminate against our Orthodox brethren who comprise a minority segment of the population. According to the constitution of Turkey, there is supposed to be an equal application of the law and of the rights for all citizens. Turkish citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs and of ethnic background should enjoy the same rights before the law. This equality, however, applies not only to their duties before the state, but also to their rights. This is not what is going on today for the Greek, Armenian or Jewish minorities.

As we gather today for the celebration of the Virgin Mary and the Annunciation of 1821, let us pray that we will soon live a third Annunciation---that we will soon see Halki reopen. We believe it is God’s will. We believe “that when God so wishes what is beyond man comes to pass”. We believe that all things are possible to those who have faith.

(Posting date 03 April 2007

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