His Eminence Metropolitan Ignatios of Demetrias and Almyros. (Photo provided by the Metropolis of Demetrias)
BOSTON – His Eminence Metropolitan Ignatios of Demetrias and Almyros, who is one of the most learned and prudent hierarchs of the Church of Greece and generally of the Orthodox Church in the world has exhausted all his reserves of tolerance and patience and he recently sent an urgent encyclical message to the anti-vaxer priests of his Metropolis that they must stop their propaganda.
He wrote, among other things: “Dear fathers and brothers, with the No. 724/26/8/2021 Encyclical of last August, I addressed all of you in a paternal and persuasive way about the difficult situation we face as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and the vaccination process.
“Unfortunately, I am forced, as I should not be, to come back with this message, having exhausted the margins of tolerance and patience for cases of unacceptable attitudes among our priests who cause enormous damage to our faithful brothers.
“From now on, we strictly forbid any reference to COVID-19 disease and anti-vaccination rhetoric, whether in a sermon or on any other occasion, as well as in the context of confession and personal communication with your parishioners.”
Speaking with The National Herald, he explained why he decided to publish this second encyclical on the pandemic. “Unfortunately we had a priest in our area, in the village of Kanalia, who, although he is aware of our official positions and the decisions of the Holy Synod of our Church – he had received our previous encyclical in August – he seems to have been misled and he insisted on conveying text messages with opinions against vaccination and even with content that leads to conspiracy theories regarding the whole situation concerning the pandemic and its treatment.”
Metropolitan Ignatios added that, “this has been made known to us by the believers, who denounced the action, because now we see correct behavior – that is, the believers themselves and the parishioners are reacting against similar cases. We called him – he has many children – and he immediately showed humility and declared strenuously that he made a mistake and failed and he apologized. In the encyclical we categorically state that if such a phenomenon is observed we will take measures regarding the spiritual authority of the priests. We will block their attempts to influence the faithful because they have a huge responsibility – if someone is prevented from being vaccinated, its puts his life in danger.”
Asked how that priest justified this anti-vaccination and anti-church behavior and whether he was an educated man, Metropolitan Ignatios replied that, “no, he is not one of our most educated priests. He is a simple man, but very ambitious, unfortunately. He got caught up in the existing atmosphere – but we must speak more clearly, through intellectuals and elders who have a reputation that is respected on Mount Athos. Being seduced in this way, he thought that he was serving a specific truth and purpose… I think that now the phenomenon is limited, at least with regard to our local Metropolis, but also in Greece in general. Unfortunately, there is still suspicion. You know, people can be easily misled by these acts of the devil that sow suspicion and division. The presence of such symptoms is now very low, however, and they pass almost unnoticed.”
When asked the source of this phenomenon of spiritual elders being involved in vaccination matters, which has the effect that some believers do not pay attention to the Church, but to charlatans, Metropolitan Ignatios said, “it is a phenomenon that is not new. It has deep roots, especially in the Orthodox world in general and not only in Greece. But I also have to say this – because I’m speaking with you, that some phenomena come to us from America. Look at the people, for example, who are obsessed with ‘666’, bringing a despair that the end of the world is coming. Texts are translated from abroad, they are given an Orthodox character, and of course they create a rift and what I call spiritual selfishness, that is, that the attitude that “we are different from all others, we are better than you, we are more holy and pure,” while they say that the Church in general and the Body of the Hierarchy have become secularized. Now with the pandemic it has become a pathogenesis that should be taken seriously into account because it represents an anti-church and completely divisive attitude. They are the same ones who turned against the Holy and Great Council of Orthodoxy that was held in Crete.”
Asked if he is surprised that even well-educated people have become either anti-vaxers or disseminate other kinds of harsh myths, His Eminence replied that, “to be completely honest, and especially here in Magnesia, we have a big problem with doctors who reject the vaccine – and you understand my position as Bishop when my priests invoke doctors who resist vaccination. And of course, these doctors also speak about ‘a new order things,’ etc. so you understand that there is a big issue because it also comes from people who are well educated.”
Regarding the recent ordination of Dr. Dimitrios Linos, the prominent surgeon and professor, he said that, “it was indeed a blessing from God. In practice it proves that there is no conflict between science and faith. Dr. Dimitrios Linos, the well-known surgeon both in Greece and abroad, a university professor, made his life’s dream come true when he become a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church. That was the answer and the consolation we tasted in this context. This ordination is a gift from God, a response of God to this critical situation we are experiencing, so that we can gain the strength and courage we need to continue.”
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