Greek Orthodox Church gears up to provide relief for crisis victims

May 7, 2010
greek protest

Trade union members march in Athens during a nationwide strike in Greece, May 5, 2010Yiorgos Karahalis

The Greek Orthodox Church is gearing up to provide relief supplies and psychological help when the country’s financial crisis really hits ordinary people after the summer, a senior churchman has said.

Greece plans draconian budget cuts to tackle a debt crisis threatening to spread across Europe. Some 50,000 Greeks marched against the austerity programme in Athens on Wednesday in a protest that saw three people killed in a fire-bombed bank.

“We know that the consequences of the measures will be more strongly felt after the summer, so we are getting ready (and) training parish priests to deal with the crisis,” Rev. Gabriel Papanicolaou told the World Council of Churches news service on Thursday.

Papanicolaou, who spoke in Geneva while attending a WCC meeting, said churches had to bring hope to their followers.

“But we are also preparing to supply food, clothes and other relief items, as well as to care for the needs of the people who lose their jobs (and) assist them with pastoral and psychological attention,” he said.

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Riot police guard the Greek parliament in Athens during continued protests over draconian austerity measures, May 6, 2010/Yiorgos Karahalis

The cleric said the Orthodox Church, which officially represents more than 90 percent of Greece’s 11 million population, believed consumerism and greed had pushed people to spend without limits.

“This isn’t just an economic or financial crisis, but also a crisis of values,” he said. “We need to recover the spirit of humbleness.”

The Geneva-based WCC represents 560 million members of Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other Christian churches apart from the Roman Catholic Church.

Out on the streets of Athens, residents also saw a crunch in the autumn.

Thanassis Nazaris, an elderly shop owner, said he expected protests to build after Greeks return from summer breaks and find they do not have enough money to live.

“Things will get worse. Wait till autumn, we will be devouring each other,” he said.

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