Sunday, April 25, 2010

The CFF Salutes: Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens

History is filled with countless cases of Jews being oppressed by Catholic and Orthodox Christian prelates. However, some heroes stand out, such as Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens (, who risked his life to save Greek Jews during the Holocaust. The churches under his jurisdiction were ordered by Damaskinos to distribute Christian baptismal certificates to Jews fleeing the Nazis, thus saving thousands of Greek Jews in and around Athens. When threatened by the SS with execution for publishing a letter protesting the abuse of Greek Jews (see below), Archbishop Damaskinos responded:

"According to the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, our prelates are hanged, not shot. Please respect our traditions!"

The Greek Orthodox Church and the Academic World of Greek People Protest against the Persecution... The Greek people were... deeply grieved to learn that the German Occupation Authorities have already started to put into effect a program of gradual deportation of the Greek Jewish community... and that the first groups of deportees are already on their way to Poland... According to the terms of the armistice, all Greek citizens, without distinction of race or religion, were to be treated equally by the Occupation Authorities. The Greek Jews have proven themselves... valuable contributors to the economic growth of the country [and] law-abiding citizens who fully understand their duties as Greeks. They have made sacrifices for the Greek country, and were always on the front lines of the struggle of the Greek nation to defend its inalienable historical rights...

In our national consciousness, all the children of Mother Greece are an inseparable unity: they are equal members of the national body irrespective of religion... Our holy religion does not recognize superior or inferior qualities based on race or religion, as it is stated: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek' and thus condemns any attempt to discriminate or create racial or religious differences. Our common fate both in days of glory and in periods of national misfortune forged inseparable bonds between all Greek citizens, without exemption, irrespective of race...

Today we are... deeply concerned with the fate of 60,000 of our fellow citizens who are Jews... we have lived together in both slavery and freedom, and we have come to appreciate their feelings, their brotherly attitude, their economic activity, and most important, their indefectible patriotism...[1]

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