From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
WCC NEWS: Greek church ready to stand by the people in tough times
WCC media <email@example.com>
Thu, 6 May 2010 12:50:54 +0200
>World Council of Churches - News
GREEK CHURCH READY TO STAND BY THE PEOPLE IN TOUGH TIMES
>For immediate release: 06 May 2010
The Church of Greece is getting ready to assist the Greek people to face
the consequences of tough economic measures taken by the government, a
church official attending an ecumenical gathering in Geneva has said.
The Archbishop of Athens and All Greece and Primate of the Autocephalous
Orthodox Church of Greece, Hieronymos II, met on Monday, 4 May with the
country's Prime Minister George Papandreou to express the church's
willingness to support the Greek people during the difficult times ahead,
said Rev. Fr Gabriel Papanicolaou. A church official, Papanicolaou is
attending a 4-6 May gathering of churches' ecumenical officers organized
by the World Council of Churches.
"The church is ready to assist in any possible way", said Papanicolaou. "We
know that the consequences of the measures will be more strongly felt
after the summer, so we are getting ready, training parish priests to deal
with the crisis."
On 5 May three people died in the Greek capital Athens during a firebomb
attack against a bank at the height of massive trade union protests. The
previous day, Greek civil servants had shut down schools and hospitals and
disrupted flights as they protested against additional wage cuts and tax
increases unveiled by the government this week.
According to news reports, as a consequence of the "austerity" measures,
the Greek economy is forecast to shrink 4 percent this year and 2.6
percent in 2011. Unemployment has risen to 11.3 percent, a six-year high.
The Church of Greece would stand by the "battered Greek people", Hieronymos
told Papandreou according to the state-run Athens News Agency. The church
has a membership of about 10 million in a country whose population is
about 11 million. Hieronymos urged "unity, strength and optimism".
"As a church we need to bring hope to the people", Papanicolaou explained.
"But we also are preparing to supply food, clothes and other relief items,
as well as to care for the needs of the people who lose their jobs, assist
them with pastoral and psychological attention. The church will stand by
the people as it always has."
The church's role, according to Papanicolaou, includes reminding the
faithful of essential values which help build social cohesion. "This isn't
just an economic or financial crisis", said Papanicolaou, "but also a
crisis of values". For Papanicolaou, consumerism and greed push people to
covet more and more, spending without limits. "We need to recover the
spirit of humbleness", he added.
According to news reports, Greece's contracting economy and increasing
budget gap has fueled investors' concerns about the country's ability to
service its debt. Therefore, borrowing costs reached the highest level
since before the introduction of the euro currency in 1999.
Papandreou's austerity measures aim to bring the shortfall within the
European Union limit of 3 percent in 2014. In order to achieve that, he
has called on Greeks to endure sacrifices in return for an unprecedented
110 billion euro bailout from the European Union and the International
The unpopular government measures include wage cuts for public workers, a
three-year freeze on pensions, and increases in sales taxes and the prices
of fuel, alcohol and tobacco.
Predictable and inevitable, but with a way out
"Many in the ecumenical movement have long been warning about the
consequences of the current global financial system", said Dr Rogate
Mshana, WCC director of Justice, Diakonia and Responsibility for Creation.
"If there are no changes, this system can only produce debt crisis,
financial bubbles and economic crashes."
"For several decades, Western Europe was considered a model of economic
development while debt crises were experienced in Africa, Asia, Russia and
Latin America", Mshana said as the euro hit a 13-month low against the
dollar. European stock markets were also affected.
"Now", Mshana added, "there is fear of a contagion effect spreading from
Greece to other European countries and some are trying to prevent this
from happening by localizing the problem. However, it is a structural
problem that cannot be solved by the current bailout and austerity
For Mshana, the ecumenical and ethical perspectives that emphasize justice
over greed are the beginning of a possible way out of the current vicious
"The whole financial system as we know it today needs to be dismantled and
new rules be put in place", Mshana said. "We need a new global financial
architecture, one that is equitable and sustainable and able to connect
the finances with the real economy."
WCC member churches in Greece (Link:
WCC work on poverty, wealth and ecology (Link:
The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and
service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches
founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant,
Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million
Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman
Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from
the [Lutheran] Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.
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