WHITESTONE – The 107th anniversary of the liberation of Chios from Ottoman rule was commemorated with a memorial service and doxology following the Divine Liturgy which was presided over by His Grace Bishop Apostolos of Medeia at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church of Whitestone on November 10.
Presiding priest of the community Fr. George Anastasiou, Fr. Chrysostomos Panos, recently appointed as the presiding priest of Transfiguration of Corona, Fr. Nick Soteropoulos, and recently ordained Deacon George Kazoulis also participated in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
The Chian Federation and the Panchiaki Korais Society also presented a reception and lecture by Professor Christos P. Ioannides, the Director of the Center for Byzantine and Greek Studies at Queens College, following the church services in the Vasilios and Athanasia Kartsonis Hall.
The Society of Kastorians Omonoia of New York also held a memorial, artoklasia, and commemoration at Holy Cross for the liberation of Kastoria, November 11, 1912, and in honor of the patron saint of Kastoria, St. Menas the Great Martyr whose feast day is celebrated on November 11. Following the services, a reception with a lecture by Mary Papadopoulos Tzallas, Principal of the William Spyropoulos School of St. Nicholas Flushing, was held at the Society’s Cultural Center in Whitestone.
St. Menas was a soldier in the Roman army, martyred for his Christian faith, so it is fitting that he should be commemorated on Veterans Day. St. Menas is known for healing the sick and reportedly also figured in the North African Battle of El Alamein in June 1942 during World War II, where an ancient ruined church nearby in Abu Mena was dedicated to St. Menas and where some claim the saint is buried.
The Allied forces, including some Greeks, were outnumbered against the German army, but during the first night of engagement, at midnight, St. Menas came out of his ruined church and appeared in the midst of the German camp at the head of a caravan of camels, exactly as he was shown on the walls of the ruined church in one of the frescoes depicting his miracles. This reportedly terrified the Germans and undermined their morale and helped the Allied victory in the battle. As Winston Churchill wrote, “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat.”
In his homily, His Grace thanked the Chian Federation and the Panchiaki Korais Society for commemorating the 1912 liberation of Chios and also thanked the Society of Kastorians for commemorating St. Menas the Great Martyr. Bishop Apostolos then explained the reading from the Gospel in which a lawyer asks Jesus who is to be considered one’s neighbor, one who is worthy of our love and respect, and noted that the Greek word in the text is plision, which means everyone around us, but it is translated in English as neighbor. Jesus then tells the well-known Parable of the Good Samaritan, demonstrating that the ‘neighbor’ is the one who showed mercy to the man who was robbed, beaten, and left on the side of the road.
Sharing a personal story, His Grace pointed out that he was born and raised in Rhodes where he never saw a homeless person, but when he first came to the United States, he saw that such a rich country had homeless people sleeping on the streets. While in Boston, he would see a woman living in a cardboard box and people would bring her coffee and a donut in the mornings, but one morning, he saw she was gone. He asked at the nearby coffee shop what happened and he was told the temperature had dropped below freezing in the night and the woman had died.
Bishop Apostolos then spoke about how the vital work the ladies of the Philoptochos Society do to help the homeless, giving food and coats to those in need without asking questions, this is a neighbor, the plision, like the people who gave their lives for the liberation of Chios, Greeks from all regions of Greece who participated in the struggle for freedom. He then congratulated the societies and the Federation for holding these commemorations which honor and remember our ancestors and heroes and help maintain our customs and traditions for the future generations.
Bishop Apostolos concluded by exclaiming Long live Chios, Kastoria, and Greece and wherever Greeks are, asking God to grant them unity, peace, and love. He then gave his best wishes to all for a happy Thanksgiving.
At the reception which followed in the church hall, Chian Federation President John Kontolios and Panchiaki Korais Society President Peter Gerazounis offered their greetings, and Prof. Ioannides gave a presentation titled, The Liberation of the Aegean Islands and the Megali Idea. As noted in the lecture, on November 11, 1912, after the First Balkan War, the Greek navy invaded the island of Chios and following weeks of bloody battles with retreating Ottoman forces, the Turks surrendered on December 20.
The amphibious operation to free Chios was spearheaded by Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis after the liberation of other islands of the Aegean, Lemnos, Thasos, Imvros, Samothraki, Psara, and Lesvos. The Ottoman Empire recognized Greece’s annexation of the islands in the Treaty of London (1913).