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Church

Metropolitan Ieronymos of Larisa and Tyrnavos to TNH

February 19, 2022

BOSTON – His Eminence Metropolitan of Larisa and Tyrnavos Ieronymos spoke to The National Herald about the pandemic, antivaxxers, and the chocolates he distributed to them when they were protesting outside of churches where mobile vaccinating centers had gone to offer vaccinations to those who wanted them. He also spoke about the ‘Gerontes’, the ‘gurus’ who are trying to control the lives of people and about the Greek-American Community, which he admires.

It should be noted here that Metropolitan Ieronymos is a hierarch of  the young generation. He was born in Athens in 1971 and was graduated from the Law School of the University of Athens as well as from the Theological School of the same university. He also did graduate studies at the University Groningen of Holland specializing in the history of Byzantine-Roman Law. He speaks Greek, English, German, Dutch, and Turkish.

The full interview follows:

The National Herald: Your Eminence, let us start with a question about how the local Church of Larisa coped with the pandemic and how is it handling the situation today?

Metropolitan Ieronymos: The pandemic was and still is something very difficult for all of us. In the beginning, there was no previous experience of something like this. A few people may have had theoretical knowledge, but many had believed that our science had already overcome such phenomena and humanity would never have to experience them again. But here we are, everything has been refuted! For almost two years, we have been living with an invisible threat, due to which, many of our own people have unjustifiably passed away. From the first moment, it became clear that our compliance with the health measures proposed by the experts was the only way to endure this. This is what we did and continue doing. We pray and follow the advice of experts, believing that God is not unjust and will stop testing us.

His Eminence Metropolitan Ieronymos of Larisa and Tyrnavos officiating at the Divine Liturgy. (Photo provided by the Metropolis of Larisa and Tyrnavos)

TNH: Did you have cases or even victims among the clergy and laity of your Metropolis?

Metropolitan Ieronymos: I pray a lot for everyone. Thank God, none of the priests of our Diocese passed away due to COVID-19. Around 40 of them got sick, but they all overcame it, some more easily, some harder. Unfortunately, those who passed away due to the pandemic in our area are too many. The pandemic highlighted the education deficit we have as a society and the catechism deficit we have as a Church. From one extreme, we reached the other. From where we had deified science, we started to distrust it. And from where many mocked the Faith, they have now turned to bigotry.

TNH: Are there priests among those who oppose vaccination?

Metropolitan Ieonymos: There are people who are scared and it makes sense when anyone can uncontrollably and irresponsibly post anything without consequences on the internet. How can anyone listen to what the experts say and become convinced, when the confusing voices of the demagogues cover it?

TNH: Except for noisy groups gathering and screaming outside of churches, are there any other groups?

Metropolitan Ieronymos: It is a given that there are many who oppose vaccination and some of them, obviously very few, have serious arguments to make. These are lost, however, in the absurdity and stubbornness that characterizes most of the anti-vaccination movement. I have discussions with those who try to talk seriously. For the rest, I pray that God will enlighten them, because their actions often equate to suicide.

TNH: Were the chocolates you distributed to them effective? Did they tone down their screaming?   

Metropolitan Ieronymos: The chocolates were effective in making Greek society understand that some people cannot be taken seriously, because they do not allow themselves to be taken seriously. Essentially, the lack of arguments of those who lead such movements emerged.

TNH:  Who or what do you think leads to such small-mindedness phenomena?

Metropolitan Ieronymos: There are many who want to capitalize and make political gains. We are less than two years before the next municipal and regional elections and many are investing in the anti-vaccine vote. In addition, certain religious groups, such as Old Calendarists, etc., found an opportunity to make their presence felt. Next is the influence of the American far right, which through websites and translated texts is trying to turn into a global movement, causing a peculiar type of globalization.

It exposes us as a Church. The Orthodox Church has its eschatology, the central idea of which is that many terrible things can happen, but in the end Christ and His people will win. All we are observing now is a new heresy, a perversion of the Orthodox preaching about the end, even with the invocation of Saints, who clearly never said the nonsense that some ‘ingenious’ people claim they have.

His Eminence Metropolitan Ieronymos of Larisa and Tyrnavos officiating at vespers.
(Photo provided by the Metropolis of Larisa and Tyrnavos)

TNH: Really, how do we separate what the Church is from what the Church is not?

Metropolitan Ieronymos: There is always the little yeast, the small amount of dough, so to speak, that is enough to renovate the world, if the world understands that it needs it so much.

TNH: What do people and especially the young tell you about the Faith and the Church?

Metropolitan Ieronymos: They are looking for it. They want to encounter it. They want to be honest about their Faith and not superficial or formal. I am happy about this, but at the same time it overwhelms me because it is my responsibility to introduce them to the Savior Christ in a genuine way.

TNH: What issues concern them?

Metropolitan Ieronymos: Depending on their nature, from the most common to the most improbable ones. From everyday issues to issues so special that they make you uncomfortable. They may not need only answers. I do not remember the answers to questions given to me by my catechists, the clergy, the priests I met, especially in my youth. I only remember who loved me and who treated me with respect and that was enough for me. Beyond that, it is a matter of personal freedom, personal responsibility, and personal decisions.

TNH: What is your opinion about the Omogenia of America?

Metropolitan Ieronymos: I have never visited America. I have not had communication and relationships with the Hellenic Diaspora so that I could form an opinion, even though one of my grandfather’s brothers immigrated to America in the early 20th century. However, I meet many people who return to Greece either for holidays or for permanent living. They are proud people of hard work who maintained values and ideals in a very difficult atmosphere. I respect them. I grieve with them when they discover that their homeland is no longer what they left behind when they decided to immigrate, and I try to share the bitterness they feel about the unexpected behavior of their compatriots. I am happy when they rise above the human pettiness and see the true greatness of Greece and rush to serve it. Because in the end, we all do that. We serve God and our homeland so that our conscience is clear, our hearts are happy, and our thoughts are satisfied with the feeling that we have done our duty.

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