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Metropolitan Ieronymos of Larissa Speaks to TNH about the Tragic Floods

September 20, 2023

BOSTON – His Eminence Metropolitan Ieronymos of Larissa and Tyrnavos, in an interview with The National Herald, describes the magnitude and drama of the floods that recently struck Greece. He is urging the people who lost everything from one moment to the next not to abandon their homes but to stay and collectively strive to regain what they have lost.

Metropolitan Ieronymos stated:

“At this moment, we cannot communicate with Thessaloniki because the Pineios River has blocked the northern exit of the city in two places, both at the riverbed, which has overflowed, and on the Yannouli Bridge, meaning that several villages in the Municipality of Larissa and the entire Municipality of Tempi are cut off. It is impossible to communicate; cars cannot go through, and we send supplies by boat, as well as with tractors or bulldozers. Large volumes of water are still coming down from the mountains.

“While Karditsa and Trikala may have started to dry up, for us, it will take a long time. This is an immeasurable disaster because the Thessalian plain, responsible for 23% of Greece’s agricultural production, cannot currently provide what it used to. This means that we will have problems with cereals and agricultural products in general, as well as with livestock, as many of the animals drowned, and those that survived don’t have feed, and some may die of hunger.

Part of the flooded plain of Thessaly, on the Larissa side. (Photo provided by the Metropolis of Larissa)

“We are doing everything we can, of course. In the Neapolis indoor gymnasium, 120 flood victims sleep every day. 150 people slept at the church of Agios Athanasios in Armenio for three nights and were saved. At the Spiritual Center of Agios Georgios in Yannouli, we have organized a camp, and 30 people stay there every day, and around 80 are being fed. We have also opened the churches that are in the highlands, and people go there and stay. In Rodia, we have a makeshift canteen, mainly for children who need a regular meal because the adults manage somehow.

“I am grateful to my priests in all the villages who mobilized and provided for people, resulting in no human casualties in the Metropolis of Larissa. There are human casualties, but in other places, in Palama, Karditsa. Our priests rang the bells at 3 o’clock in the night, awakening the people, who left their beds and moved to higher ground or to other villages.

“We have a problem in the low-lying neighborhoods within Larissa. I just left the church of Agios Thomas, where people were cleaning up the mud that entered about 30 centimeters deep. Fortunately, it did not reach the Holy Altar, but the main church, the office, the kitchen, the catechism rooms, have been destroyed, and the river took away many items.

Distribution of water at the Church of Saint George in Giannouli, under the care of the Metropolitan. (Photo provided by the Metropolis of Larissa)

“We will rebuild these things; the good God will provide, and He will send people to help us rebuild them properly.

“What we are most concerned about now are the aftermath of the flood, with many animal carcasses, rodents, and snakes. The whole area smells, and the odor is unbearable in the Thessalian plain and some areas of Larissa. There is a risk of the West Nile virus spreading due to the sudden appearance of many mosquitoes, and their presence is already evident in Larissa. That’s why the Metropolis of Larissa is distributing chlorine in addition to food and water. Anyone who can return home will receive four kilograms of chlorine to thoroughly clean their homes where the floodwaters entered, bringing bacteria, etc., because the health of the people is our top priority.

“Those returning home find either nothing or what they find is terribly heartbreaking. Much traditional furniture, hand-embroidered items, or heirlooms passed down from their mothers or grandmothers have been destroyed. In any case, we have reason to mourn for many things, but we are determined to endure and survive.”

The Metropolitan emphasized: “Let no one take this as a reason to leave Thessaly; let them stay in their place, and let us all strive together. I earnestly urge everyone to stay here because if one by one starts leaving, I don’t know if those of us who stay will be enough, capable of bearing the heavy burden of the things that are to come and providing for the next generations.”

He also emphasized, “we have suffered significant losses in churches. On Sunday, September 10, 70% of the churches did not hold services, either because they were flooded, or because the priests couldn’t reach the villages to conduct services. The pilgrimage site of Agia Paraskevi in Tempi was completely destroyed. The bridge was cut off by the volume of water, and now we cannot cross to Agia Paraskevi.”

The scene of the destruction of the Church of Saint Athanasios in Koulouri.
(Photo provided by the Metropolis of Larissa)

When asked if there was a way to prevent such a disaster or if the conditions were such that it didn’t allow for prevention, Metropolitan Ieronymos said, “I am not the one to answer that. I hope all of this was simply a natural phenomenon that erupted and couldn’t be contained. Unfortunately, many things are being said, and responsibilities may need to be attributed, but I am not the one who will assign them. I am concerned about relieving people, ensuring their safe return to their homes, and generally anything that could secure the restoration of peaceful living conditions in all of Thessaly. What can we do? It’s in God’s hands.”

Regarding the Greek- American Community, he said, “I urge them to pray fervently for Thessaly, which, being in the heart of Greece, is a very important region.”


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