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Church

Metropolitan Kyrillos of Imvros and Tenedos Recounts the Horror of the Earthquakes

February 23, 2023

BOSTON – Metropolitan Kyrillos of Imvros and Tenedos was among the first people to visit the earthquake zone. On the second day after the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, he visited the area with eight more people from his Metropolis, delivering humanitarian and financial aid and burying tens of Orthodox Christians.

In an interview with The National Herald, Metropolitan Kyrillos recounted what he saw, an experience that no human heart can contain or brain can process.

He said, “We went to the areas devastated by the second of the earthquakes. We visited the Eparchy of Katai.”

He continued, saying that, “It is something that cannot easily be described because we are talking about a total catastrophe, especially in the city of Antioch and the surrounding areas. It is like a bombed place. There is nothing standing. People were forced to leave the city. Remaining are those who are searching to find their own people, either alive or dead, and quickly they bury their dead and leave, either to go to bigger cities or anywhere they have relatives in order to feel more secure. Unfortunately, the dead are so many, I don’t know how many thousands there will be.”

When asked where he himself stayed, he said, “In the small van because there is nothing there. Even the temporary tents for the distribution of food and water are made of nylon.”

Metropolitan Kyrillos of Imvros and Tenedos is distributing humanitarian aid which he brought from his Metropolis. (Photos provided by Metropolitan Kyrillos)
Metropolitan Kyrillos of Imvros and Tenedos is holding in his arms two small children whose parents had been killed in the deadly earthquakes in Antioch. (Photos provided by Metropolitan Kyrillos)

Metropolitan Kyrillos also said, “the people can’t take it anymore – if I may use that expression. There is no family that doesn’t have at least one victim. There was a man who had thirty relatives missing. After they pulled out the first, the second, the third corpse, what could he do? How much can he cry? How much can his heart take?”

When asked approximately how many dead he buried, His Eminence said, “more than one hundred fifty. We were there when the dead bodies were extracted, one after another. We put them in bags and I did the funeral service right there on the street. Then, if we knew the names, we sent the bodies to the cemetery to be buried. The ones that we didn’t know, we put in bags and the trucks that were coming by picked them up and buried them collectively in huge graves – the bulldozers just covered them with dirt.”

Metropolitan Kyrillos of Imvros and Tenedos, kneeling, is chanting the funeral service for Orthodox Christians who were killed in Antioch. (Photos provided by Metropolitan Kyrillos)

Metropolitan Kyrillos of Imvros and Tenedos in front of a body waiting to see if perhaps some relative appears for the funeral service. (Photos provided by Metropolitan Kyrillos)
A mother is crying over the body of her daughter who had just been taken out from the debris while waiting for the truck that will pick up her daughter’s corpse. (Photos provided by Metropolitan Kyrillos)

Asked how he felt in that situation, Metropolitan Kyrillos replied by saying, “It was terrible! It was a moment when time had frozen. I couldn’t process what I was experiencing. People were asking me, ‘Please come to pray over two bodies,’ they were a father and a son. Soon after, another man came to me saying, ‘Please come over here, they just extracted my dead mother. Please say a prayer.’ A few steps away, a young woman was trapped under heavy debris and the first responders had difficulty freeing her. She was begging, saying, ‘Please amputate my leg to save me.’ The small children just broke my heart. I embraced and held them. They were looking in my eyes, asking me, ‘Why?’ What could I say?”

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