Atheist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who said he will separate Church and State four years after making that vow, nevertheless attended the Jan. 6 Epiphany religious holiday on the northeast island of Samothrace and the traditional Blessing of the Waters Orthodox Church service.
He used the occasion to take a verbal shot at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has been stepping up provocations over rights to the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, reportedly saying he would throw Greeks into the sea.
Tsipras, who is planning to meet with Erdogan in Turkey, responded that, “I will defend and we’ll defend what we consider to be beneficial for the country,” said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.
The Greek Premier added that, “Towards the outside (of Greece), I would like to send a message that, despite our internal differences, Greeks are united and will defend the sovereignty and integrity of our homeland… I heard my friend, President Erdogan, reading lines from a poem that praises war… I’d like to use a verse by Bertolt Brecht… who wrote: ‘ General, man is very useful. He can fly and he can kill. But he has one defect: He can think.’”
Major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis attended the religious ceremony in the eastern Attica port town of Rafina, just south of the village of Mati where 33 people were killed in July 23, 2018 wildfires that claimed 100 lives overall.
“After a particularly difficult period, my wish is for 2019 to be a year filled with light and joy for all Greeks,” he said.
Unlike previous years, when the main Epiphany service was held at the port of Piraeus, this year Archbishop Ieronymous officiated at a mass in the main cathedral on the Cyclades island of Syros. He was joined by President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.