His Eminence Metropolitan Augoustinos of Germany and Exarch of Central Europe. Photo provided by the Metropolis of Germany
BOSTON – Metropolitan Augustinos of Germany, with deep knowledge and experience in ecclesiastical and social matters, with broad-mindedness and disarming straightforwardness, spoke in an interview with The National Herald about the Greek community and the Church in Germany, same-sex marriage, the phenomenon of ‘Gerontismos – Elderism’, the Greek-American Community, and many other topics.
The interview follows:
The National Herald: Your Eminence, in what state does the new year find the Metropolis and the Greek Community in Germany?
Metropolitan Augustinos: I would say in a very good state. We started from scratch – a small office in Bonn, and nothing else, and with the help of God and thousands of people, Greeks and Germans alike, ‘we don’t know what we have’.
TNH: How many parishes do you have throughout Germany?
Metropolitan Augustinos: The large communities, the financially independent ones, are around one hundred, but essentially, they are five hundred because there are some cities like, let’s say, Cologne and Hardenberg, where there is no permanent priest. However, a priest goes there once or twice a month and performs the services, so we don’t leave people alone. We are close to them, and that’s why we survive, Theodore. We live here in Germany not from church taxes or other taxes; we live from the congregation, and that is a miracle.
TNH: Do you mean that the parishioners willingly, through participation in the worship services, support the Metropolis and the communities?
Metropolitan Augustinos: Only them.
TNH: You don’t have, as we do in America, mandatory annual contributions from each faithful?
Metropolitan Augustinos: No, of course not. We have so-called voluntary contributions, meaning if someone wants to give, they give whatever they want, one euro, two euros; no, I never say give 100, 200, 300, never, but whatever each person wants. I have to say that so far, at least, this thing has not yielded the fruits we expected, but every month things are getting better.
TNH: If a parishioner comes to you and says, “Your Eminence, I want to baptize my child but I don’t have money” – will you baptize the child?
Metropolitan Augustinos: Certainly, and not only that, but we will also give them money.
TNH: You touched my heart Your Eminence.
Metropolitan Augustinos: That’s how we are.
TNH: How many years have you been archpastoring in Germany?
Metropolitan Augustinos: I was an assistant Bishop for eight years under Bishop Irenaeus. He had complete trust in me, sent me everywhere because I knew the language. I had studied here for five years, knew the general situation in Germany, and since 1980, I have been the Metropolitan of Germany.
TNH: In what condition did the past year leave the Orthodox Church worldwide?
Metropolitan Augustinos: I don’t think it left it in excellent condition. The issue of Ukraine still exists; it is a schism for now. Of course, we all believe that one day this will be resolved because every time there was an issue of autocephaly, there were a few years and schisms. We believe that when the war in Ukraine ends, the leaders there, the Patriarch of Moscow, and Putin will realize that it is not beneficial for the Church to be divided but must be united always and everywhere.
TNH: However, Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow is followed by all the Slavic Churches, including two Greek-speaking ones, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Autocephalous Church in Albania. It’s not only Moscow.
Metropolitan Augustine: There are problems that are more economic and political than Orthodox. I don’t understand this with Albania, because if there is [a thriving Church in] Albania today, my great and dear friend Archbishop Anastasios of Albania owes it to the Patriarch Bartholomew. Also, other Churches like Serbia, Antioch – all these [situations a drive by] economic reasons – Russia helps them. Russia, you know, has huge amounts [of money] for Cyril for his Patriarchate, huge amounts, in Africa, everywhere, and our people don’t see this, they see other things.
TNH: What are some of the burning questions that occupy your inner struggle for the world in general?
Metropolitan Augustine: In what simple language can we tell the world, as our fathers and mothers told us, about the affairs of the Nation and the Church, for the new generation to understand what Orthodoxy is. To understand that Orthodoxy is gold, and that we all together must help our children remain Greeks and Orthodox. Greeks, not with the nationalist side, but Greeks according to our Greek tradition and with our language, which is a historical language that must not die at all. In Germany, for example, the Greek language must not be extinguished. This does not mean that our children should not learn excellent German to progress in Germany, however. The question is, how can we tell the children that there is a future, salvation, meaning in life?
TNH: Your Eminence, what is your opinion on same-sex marriage, which is about to be legalized in Greece? What do your people, your flock, tell you?
Metropolitan Augustine: Those who understand what this is about, are against it. I tell you the following, that the Church can never accept this thing, never. The state is another matter; here is the European Union insisting on this issue, and I believe that the government in Greece will impose it because the European Union insists, but the Church can never agree to it.
TNH: In Germany, is same-sex marriage an issue?
Metropolitan Augustine: Here, the problem started from the Evangelical Church. They produced a document on the family saying things that later became law in Parliament, and this law is called ‘marriage for all’ and it even includes adopting children. Personally, I cannot understand this.
TNH: The new president of SYRIZA, Mr. Stefanos Kasselakis, is married to a man. What does this mean for the institution of the family as we have known and experienced it in our homeland, Greece, for centuries?
Metropolitan Augustine: It is something unprecedented in a people who are mostly conservative, somewhat Orthodox – perhaps only Orthodox on paper.
TNH: You mean in Greece?
Metropolitan Augustine: In Greece. How many people attend church in Greece?
TNH: I think two percent.
Metropolitan Augustine: But here, as I told you, we live on the congregation’s donations. That is, if we had two percent, the Metropolis and the Church of Germany would not exist.
TNH: How do you view the phenomenon of ‘Gerontism’ in Greece, which is literally filled with Elders who prophesy, predict the future, carry icons, relics, objects, and even bring out chestnuts for worship?
Metropolitan Augustine: Gerontism is a curse. I never wanted to be an Elder, nor am I the Elder of anyone; I am the Metropolitan of Germany, and all the clergy are my children and brothers; I am the father of all. Gerontism will harm us a lot if we do not take care to disentangle ourselves from it as early as possible; unfortunately, it will harm our Church.
TNH: What do you think about the Greek-American Community? What are we to you?
Metropolitan Augustine: Some say that we here in Germany have surpassed you. Let’s laugh a little… Well, I have always admired you. However, I cannot say that I know everything there because when I came, I came only because the Patriarch wanted it, and I came for three days. I respect and love the Greek-American Omogenia and honor it.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Iditarod, the annual sled dog race celebrating Alaska's official state sport, is set to get underway Saturday with a new focus on safety after five dogs died and eight were injured in collisions with snowmobiles while training on shared, multi-use trails.
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