ATHENS – Writer Nikos Dimou said he was leaving the newly-formed To Potami (The River) party after he ridiculed the concept of Holy Fire, which set off a firestorm of criticism against him.
Dimou said he didn’t believe in the sanctity of the Holy Fire brought from Jerusalem to Greece on Easter Saturday or that it’s the result of a miracle.
Politicians from across the spectrum, including the atheist Communists, denounced him for speaking what he believed, although To Potami’s leader, the former TV presenter Stavros Theodorakis didn’t join in it.
Still, Dimou, author of The Misfortune of Being Greek, said he felt he had to step down because of the negative publicity that his comments had attracted.
“I was just a simple member of the party but my name is well known and the media identified us as one and the same,” he said in a statement. “That is how the party and I wound up in trouble.”
Apart from doubting the Christian Orthodox belief that the Holy Fire appears in Christ’s tomb each Easter, Dimou also questioned the cost of the Greek state’s tradition of transporting the flame back to Athens on a special flight.
Despite quitting To Potami, he said he would continue to support the party, which sits third in opinion polls ahead of the European Parliament elections on May 25.
“I will continue to back To Potami and Stavros Theodorakis,” he said. “I am sorry that without wanting to I damaged the party.”
The relations between Church and state also figured in a meeting between Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis and the head of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos.
“It is true that we have some differences with the mayor but there are many things on which we cooperate because we both want to serve people better,” said Ieronymos as the two men discussed the welfare work carried out by the Church and the municipality.