The Church is the oldest “political” organization. Not just in Greece, but everywhere in the world. No other institution can withstand the passage of centuries – not just decades. It survives earthquakes, plagues, revolutions and economic crises.
Its power lies in the metaphysical relationship it has with people but also in the accumulated wisdom and know-how in handling very difficult situations. This can be understood by visiting Mount Athos.
The followers of this tradition view our ephemeral issues, whether they are a government or a pandemic, without the pressure of time that the rest of us feel. When you ask them why they handle an issue in a specific way, they tell you about something that happened six centuries ago as if it happened yesterday. This wisdom has been passed down from generation to generation and has entered their DNA for good.
In Greece, religion is largely intertwined with the identity of the average Greek and the nation. It doesn’t matter whether one likes it or not. But it is wrong to ignore or – even worse – to snub reality.
Those who advise the government or any other official to completely ignore the Church are wrong, and they are rightly ignored.
Today, we are at a critical crossroads. The economic crisis and the pandemic have turned everything upside down and unleashed an anti-systemic tsunami. In this environment, some fanatics have been targeting the Church relentlessly, while some other fanatics want to turn it into a carrier of obscurantist and extremist views.
Archbishop Ieronymos is in the middle trying to maintain a balance in a tough environment. He obviously has a huge responsibility for the vulnerable believers who are most directly at risk from the insidious virus. He does not want to hand over the Church to those who trade in blind rage. He understands that a large section of society is moving away from the Church and is angry at its obsession with not following the rules that apply to everyone.
On his side, the prime minister must strike the right balance, by neither being afraid of it nor by overreacting. Difficult times. Difficult roles.